Traditionally (two years establishes quite the precedent) I limit this collection to ten of my favourite posts. This year I was finding it difficult to narrow down the list, pondering semifreddo or ice cream, caramelized white chocolate or toasted sugar (a Stella Parks invention) or browned butter cream or even the epiphany/monstrosity (depends on the person) that is olive oil cream.
This decision making would be a lot easier if it was like 2018 when I only published around ten posts in total anyways! Though unlike last year, it’s the fact that I have been posting more that makes me excited to work on a little recap and highlight of the year.
But despite my strict rule-following instincts, there is no actual rule, just me. The fact that I make the rules and let myself break them is what allows me to write excessively long blog posts and excessively curt and concise blog posts, all in the same blog, and with no consistent regard to narrative structure. Why yes, it’s a mess. (And also an evaluative rubric-free zone).
So this year I’ve freely allowed myself to pick and choose what I wanted to highlight – let’s say fourteen – in terms of favourites, lessons I learned, and what ingredients, recipes or techniques am I excited to return to in the future.
It can also be tradition to vaguely commiserate on the state of the world and how dark the last year was, but at some point without accompanying specifics or concrete action the whole process starts to become quite meaningless. So for those that need some comfort, if you have the time, the energy and the resources, perhaps try a bake? And for those of us with all of those resources in excess, well, we will need to see what we can do in this new year.
Croquembouche had been on the list for a while, but I was certain that any attempt would end up as a rickety leaning tower of Pisa, surrounded by fallen cream puffs, and burnt fingertips. However, the mini-stack I made was genuinely not as difficult as I expected. Time consuming yes, and it still leans and I certainly had tender fingers, but if you’re used to making filled cream puffs, a croquembouche is quite a manageable project. The caramelized sugar tastes delicious as well!
vanilla rooibus, cashew and caramelized white chocolate cookies
Chewy, wrinkly cookies flooded with puddles of chocolate are everywhere. And for good reason! It seemed about time I put together my own version, and so I came up with these. They are a bit zany, very flavourful, and come together fast. But most of all, they’re chewy wrinkly cookies flooded with puddles of chocolate.
houjicha chestnut roll cake
This is the roll cake that started the roll cake galore this year – it’s blissfully easy to make (now I can pull it together in about 20 minutes), rolls easily, and even though I tend to beat the air out of everything I try to fold, this cake is impervious to my efforts. It is also very amenable to different flavours having since spawned blueberry earl grey, ispahan and persimmon walnut versions.
strawberry, lemongrass and glutinous black rice semifreddo
It’s not always the best idea to first try a dessert by making it yourself – after all, I tend to mess things up and usually get the wrong idea of what something should taste like. But for the first semifreddo that I’ve tasted and made, it was immediately obvious to me that this was not just a slice-and-bake ice cream. There is something obviously unique about its texture – ethereally creamy in the way that it melts into foam on your tongue. This strawberry lemongrass number makes for a summery and refreshing combo, but I have a rich winter holiday version that I hope to post sometime soon.
roasted apricot and spruce tip cakes
I had a lot of fun with these cakes – both in flavour and form! It took me a few tries to find a cake with the right pliability to match what I was hoping to achieve but I loved turning what I had envisioned in my head into a reality. Besides, I realised that have cakes you can pick up and eat by hand are like actually really convenient. I also loved being able to emulate Hilda of Along the Grapevine, my foraging inspiration, by using spruce tips I picked from some local trees.
roasted rhubarb and strawberry layer cake
Of course I have to give a position of honour to the blog’s fifth birthday cake. But even if it wasn’t the blogiversary cake, I finally got a chance to revamp an old recipe to make it what I wanted it to be. I also learned that there is a buttercream that I like – cooked flour or ermine frosting! It’s also a lot more customizable than egg-based buttercreams (let the brainstorming begin!). Even better, as sugar is not required for structural integrity, it can also be sweetened as to your liking.
roasted cherry, amaretto & rosewater ice cream
I made quite a few ice creams this summer with the hand crank freezer canister that certainly predates my birth. Not all of them made it on the blog (yet!), but by general consensus, this was the favourite. It’s intensely aromatic and loaded up with liqueur which generates the perfectly soft and scoopable texture even right out of the freezer.
swiss chard, herb and allspice pastries
If there is one actionable takeaway from this post, it is try out the bureka #4 dough from Honey & Co. It’s so easy to put together, soft, crisp, and flaky, and the pastry rolls out like a dream – maybe because of the combination of cream cheese and butter? Put whatever you like inside of it – though if you have lots of swiss chard, I loved this version (I narrowly managed to prevent myself from adding feta, my favourite flavour crutch when it comes to greens, but here’s a feta swiss chard pie if you’re so inclined.)
strawberry and browned butter cream layer cake
Since finding my mum’s Bel cream maker, I’ve been pondering what I could try with it. I came up with browned butter cream, by emulsifying together browned butter and milk. It whips up into a delicious, nutty and caramelized whipped cream. Here I used it in a simple strawberry chiffon layer cake, but I’ve also used it in this persimmon walnut roll cake, this persimmon fig pavlova, and as an accompaniment for this applesauce bundt cake.
white peach, strawberry and pistachio mousse cake
I obviously like to always be as pretentious as possible. This was probably my pretentious highlight of the year – a four, or was it five?, component entremet. Okay, rather the cakes themselves, my pretension comes from my stabs at writing convincingly about food and attempts at photography. I genuinely loved these cakes and think there is good reason to make multilayered mousse cakes if you’re so inclined, as there endless room for variation and creativity. This was my third or fourth attempt at a mousse cake (it’s also my favourite flavour combination thus far) and each time I find the process gets a bit smoother… at least until everything fell apart at the mirror glaze stage.
toasted sugar persimmon & fig pavlova
This pavlova is as close to kitchen alchemy as one gets, tasting just like a toasted marshmallow, thoroughly convincing me that toasting sugar is transformative. I combined this toasted sugar pavlova with my new favourite browned butter cream and fall fruit for autumnal through and through.
olive oil panna cotta tart with figs
Okay, so olive oil cream. I had this idea – emulsify together olive oil and milk for an olive oil version of cream. I did so – on it’s own it tastes like a very thin olive oil mayonnaise or bland vinaigrette. But sweetened with honey and flecked with vanilla, it came together as an olive dessert after all. If you want a bit of strange project, give it a try!
red beet gingerbread ice cream
Above I shared my favourite summer ice cream; here is my favourite winter ice cream. I tend to dread eating beets after a childhood of far too many, but every so often I find a combination where the beet flavour is of genuine benefit rather than something to be covered up. This ginger and spice-heavy ice cream was one such example, where the beets give the ice cream a fruity brightness of sorts, and of course, a brilliant colour.
tiramisu cream puffs
Since we began the year on choux, we can end on a nice high choux note as well. Cream puffs are the perfect receptacle for your favourite flavour combination and I loved how these tiramisu cream puffs came together, taking advantage of the time-honoured classic flavour combination. But let’s just imagine together how much we can do with a cream puff – fill with creams or compotes or jams, or even add a textural component like a crumble or crumb; more fillings can be piped on top, and even after that you have the option of a craquelin or a glaze and garnish.
I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the swing of blogging after a couple years of very little of anything. This past year I struck a bit of a balance between experimental flavour combinations and classics. I also had fun toasting everything that I could – whether sugar, white chocolate or butter to emulsify into a cream.
When looking back at previous years, I think I’ve improved in some senses of the word. I’ve noticed that my projects have become occasionally more complex, and I’ve been much more satisfied in my descriptions of how they’ve turned out. I have to attribute some of this to the blog – having tentimestea motivates me to document what I bake, along with detailed recipes, tips and impressions. Without it, my baking notes would resemble my lab book (i.e. a pile of paper towels scribbled with notes). The blog allows me to remember what I learned from previous projects and build on them – because when significant baking memories are often in the form of grams, it’s important to write them down!
I’m hoping to keep things up this as well.
Wishing you all good baking memories and happy 2020!
Here is the 2016 and 2015 blog years in review!