olive oil panna cotta tart with figs

an olive oil panna cotta tart flavoured with honey and vanilla to reinforce its dessert allegiance, plus figs. 

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Sometimes I question myself – how do I still not have a go-to recipe for most things…such as a pate sucree? Every time I tend to use something a bit different – either because I start looking at different reference recipes or I start making up my own based on ratios (which themselves change, varying from 3:2 flour to butter like a shortbread to 2:1 flour to butter). Or I look at my previous posts and then start adapting those adaptations depending on what little bits of egg I have left in the fridge or how much butter I want to use…

Perhaps another reason I never settle on one recipe is because I’m constantly switching up how much whole wheat flour I use, or I try to make as little pastry as possible for the project and end up needing to roll it very thin– which works better some times than other times. I’ve been making more tarts recently though, so perhaps that will push me to finally settle on a tart dough.

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toasted sugar pavlova with persimmons & figs

a toasted sugar pavlova that tastes just like a roasted marshmallow, piled with browned butter cream, persimmons and figs

toasted sugar pavlova with persimmons & figsroasted sugar pavlova with persimmons & figs

In general, I’m a bit off pavlovas. I love the assortment of textures, particularly how the meringue already comes with two inherently built in, but they’re usually a bit too sweet for my liking. Understandably, as a French meringue ratio is typically 2 to 1 sugar to egg white by weight.

Thus my pavlova making has also come with an inbuilt quest to find ways to reduce the sweetness – previously I’ve paired the meringue with tart fruit as well as reduced the sugar in the meringue. Next up on my list was trying to use toasted sugar, a technique courtesy of Stella Parks whereby a slow bake in the oven kicks off sugar breakdown (i.e. caramelization!), all while retaining its granular consistency. In this way the sugar takes on a caramelized flavour with the additional benefit of slightly subduing its sweetness.

Despite that pavlova is at least half sugar (as mine is) if not more (as most recipes usually are), I was still taken aback by how flavourful the substitution of toasted sugar made the meringue. It tastes like a toasted marshmallow, but completely through and through – not just around the charred, bubbly edges with a molten centre threatening to slip off your skewer (I am not good at toasting marshmallows over fire).

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persimmon, walnut and browned butter roll cake

apparently i am channelling all the autumn vibes: a toasted walnut roll cake filled with persimmons and browned butter cream  

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A little while ago I posted my first try at making browned butter cream by emulsifying together browned butter and milk using a Bel cream maker. The resultant cream tasted intensely of browned butter, and the combination of caramelization and creamy richness reminded me of a dark salted caramel. Of course I had so many other ideas of how else to try using it!

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speculoos & pumpkin cheesecake

speculoos-spiced pumpkin cheesecake that’s just as much pumpkin pie as it is a cheesecake and plenty of halloween anticipation

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The story of how I ended up with ninety chocolate bars to myself last Halloween begins with my quiet Halloweens growing up. The location of my childhood house, alongside a traffic-heavy multilane road, plus the aged demographic of our neighbours, did not make for an enticing trick-or-treating route. A good Halloween was five to six trick-or-treaters at our door.

Given my history of Halloweens a bit wanting, I brought years of pent-up anticipation with me when I moved to a dense residential neighbourhood last year, a block south of a high school and north of an elementary.

Our location was perfect, I reasoned, perfect for attracting trick-or-treators

In the week leading up to the date, I fantasized about streams of eager trick-or-treaters at the door, marvelling at costumed toddlers, and the excitement of a lively evening with the doorbell constantly ringing in the background. No more dull nights spent waiting for perhaps just one more!

Obviously I had to be prepared for the swarm of trick-or-treaters about to descend. And that meant having at least 90 chocolate bars at hand (I pondered the boxes of 150 on the adjacent shelf but decided I should probably be somewhat reserved in case the turnout was a bit on the low side).

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pumpkin pasties (sort of)

some sort-of pumpkin pasties – maybe more accurately pumpkin turnovers – and thinking back to the Harry Potter days

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I felt like I grew up alongside Harry Potter. Upon reflection I was wondering about the literal accuracy of that statement, so I mapped out my and Harry’s ages using the book publishing dates. There is a bit of truth to it, albeit perhaps less than I had imagined: he was quite a bit older, with the series concluding when I was still quite young (I was only a fan for the publishing of the last few books), though given that sometimes it would take a few years for him to age one year, I caught up a bit.

The reason I was still able engage with the series at the time was because my older sister read the books to me (she more properly grew up alongside the books!). Despite that, I still remember very well what a longitudinal presence an ongoing book series can take – aching, after you finish the latest book, dulling over a year or few of waiting, and the beating return of anticipation as the next release date approaches. It felt like a special time, and something that I’m not sure I’ll see again: not just the anticipation about a new book coming out, but also the camaraderie that accompanied it as so many others were waiting with you.

My impression that I had grown up alongside Harry Potter throughout my childhood speaks to the enormity of the series’ presence. Finishing each successive book (irregardless of publishing date) felt like a milestone in my own life – and it’s easy to start correlating my own growth and development to his when the books map along Harry’s life for seven years.

I’ve since read the series over several times and they are just as good as the first time through, when the reading was a rushed flipping of pages, while also unabashedly savoured in the way that reading aloud facilitates.

Every time I noticed something new and charming in what she’s written – and of course, the mentions of food always pop out, including one of the exchanges to open up the first book:

“Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and sweets (the sandwiches lay forgotten).

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spiced poached pear and buckwheat mille crepe

a pear-forward mille crepe with a pastry cream made of the pear-poaching liquid, slices of poached pears, and a spiced pear-poaching liquid caramel overtop. plus a review and summary of the thought-provoking Food Bank Nations by Graham Riches.

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Crepe making is definitely a book-requiring process. Unless I have a distraction, such as a book, I get a bit too impatient and end up turning the heat too high.

With Canada’s first national food policy recently established, sustainability, food security, justice and the right to food are coming more into focus nationally. With that in mind I recently read Food Bank Nations: Poverty, Corporate Charity and the Right to Food (2018) by Graham Riches while making some crepes – and despite the title, which reminded me uncomfortably of Fast Food Nation, I found an interesting overview of food banking history and its implications in wealthy countries. It was thought-provoking and convincingly argued – recommended, particularly if some of the points I summarize below interest you.

“While recognizing the moral imperative to feed hungry people, Food Bank Nations challenges the effectiveness, sustainability and moral legitimacy of globally entrenched corporate food banking as the primary response to rich world food poverty.”

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white peach, strawberry & pistachio mousse cake

more attempts at mousse cake entremets. this time a white peach mousse with a multilayered insert – pistachio yoghurt mousse, strawberry jelly and pistachio white chocolate cremeux to balance the cream with tart fruit and salted pistachio!  

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Arriving at a party three hours late (two-thirds of which was semi-intentional, one third of which was a surprise – though given the entire trip was relatively unplanned, why it was a surprise, or upon what the putative ETA was based, was unclear), the main hurdle had been locating the bus terminal. In a mixed transit hub, transformed into a maze by virtue of add-on’s and the white canvas-tented construction-impeded walkways, we tried following the path indicated by two dimensional and directionally ambiguous arrows (it always takes me a bit of a figurative leap to understand that an up arrow means forwards). Eventually we arrived at the apparent endpoint– a singular, lonely arrow pointing directly into a construction site.

Wandering back to look for help, we were informed that there must be a way and to try again. Surely people still took the buses after all. We located a second set of arrows – this time passing up a twisting ramp – convolutedly promising until we returned to the same, stark arrow.

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