spiced date gateau basque

spiced date & cream gateau basque

I think we are possibly still in the peri-New Year period where 2021 listicles are tolerated and somewhat relevant. For instance: last year I started an annual favourite album list which, given the constant content deficit this blog is under, is obviously being continued again this year.

As always, I never keep very up to date with music so these aren’t specifically my favourite albums of 2021, so much as my favourite albums new to me in 2021. Compared to my usual indecision, it’s usually strangely obvious to me what this list would entail as the albums that I listened to most over the past year spring to mind easily. The harder part is articulating what I love about them (and if I sound like I don’t know a thing about music, it’s probably because I don’t know a thing about music). But in my struggling lay terms trying grasp genre, emotion or theme, here goes a list.

spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque

1. i need to start a garden (2018) – hayley heynderickx

I Need to Start a Garden is three parts soft-spoken ballad, one part anthem of millennial angst. It wasn’t quite first love for all of these songs for me, but they grew on me tremendously, something which only makes me adore them even more. (Even the near-shout refrain of “Oom Sha La La” – not to mention, I have never encountered so relatable a rumination as “I’ve barely been to college/And I’ve been out full/Of all that I have dreamed of/The brink of my existence essentially is a comedy.”) My favourite album that I listened to this year.

favourite tracks: the bug collector, untitled god song

2. shelter as we go… (2017) – quantum tangle

This album effortlessly traverses the territories of haunting to sweet to righteously angry and determined, and stories of family, love, and colonialism linking ancestral and contemporary. The way that joy and pride and frustration coexist hints at the complexity of positive identity and community in an oppressive country. I also love an album where each song has its own distinct feel – and each of them is just lovely too.

favourite tracks: tiny hands, igluvut, ikersuaq (but really, all of them are my favourite)

3. i’ve felt all these things (2021) – anna leone

I first listened to Anna Leone’s debut EP which came out a couple of years ago and was immediately charmed by her music. I was so excited to see her first very album come out; it’s the most soothing set of songs I’ve listened over the past year, with delicate folky melodies and intimate vocals carrying the album.

favourite tracks: love you now, in the morning, still i wait

4. take the corners gently (2021) – steady holiday

Steady Holiday reminds me of melodic singer-songwriter albums from Emmy the Great and Zee Av. The tracks are about half slow, half fast, and lean wistful and nostalgic. It’s the heartfelt songs which I listen this album for: “Love me When I Go to Sleep” and “Living Life.”

favourite tracks: love me when i go to sleep, living life

5. foreigner (2020) – jordan mackampa

This is also Jordan Mackampa’s first full length album. It sounds as though his style has veered more pop-y recently, but still amazing vocals (and charming melodrama) regardless. This album is has plenty of flashy catchy tracks but it’s the more sincerely sentimental songs which are my favourite – the title track “Foreigner” particularly.

favourite tracks: foreigner, eventide, tight (a little cringy but so sweet!)

6. europhories (2021) – videoclub

This French electro-pop album is definitely a bit different from what I usually tend to enjoy but it’s only mildly electronic and also just very, very catchy?! The songs are sung in the most charismatic deadpan (I mean this as a compliment) and I’ve found myself listening to it many more times than I expected. The duo actually broke up (romantically) and disbanded (professionally) before I even discovered the album so sadly I think it’s the one and last from Videoclub.

favourite tracks: amour plastique (by far)

spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque
spiced date & cream gateau basque

I’ve been sporadically trying to make a gateau basque, a buttery filled cake from Basque, for a few years now and I’ve made some rather terrible ones. Generally, the recipes I’ve seen fall into two types – some use a softer dough which you pipe into layers both below and overtop the filling, while others use a stiffer dough which is rolled out like a tart crust. My first try was based on a piped version, but I didn’t like how thick the layers of pastry ended up too being: predominantly pastry without much filling. The cake was also too dry by the time it cooked through, though that was on me… After that I mostly switched to rolled pastry methods which more easily facilitated thinner layers for a higher filling:pastry ratio. I tried a stiffer dough that was very easy to work with, but which baked up too dry, crisp and cookie-like (at this point I also realized from this one that I should maintain a certain amount of sugar in the dough for tenderness.) Finally, I found I preferred a softer rolled dough formula – harder to work with, but which ended up more tender and cake-like than its dryer counterparts.

That being said, this dough is really soft. It becomes super delicate and prone to tearing as soon as it starts to warm up. It helps to be patient and roll out the dough onto parchment so you can slide it back into the fridge or freezer for when its cold-forged will begins to fade.

Gateau basque is usually filled with either a cherry jam or a pastry cream. I generally prefer the pastry cream filling, but I wanted to add an extra layer to this one, one which I felt wouldn’t detract from the sense of butter on cream on richness on butter: and that meant a layer of warmly spiced date paste. The date paste, an idea inspired by date ma’amoul, has a deep flavour, much like caramel (I now understand why date caramel is such a thing in vegan baking). As the paste is very thick, especially when chilled, I found the best way to get it into an even layer was to roll it out between two pieces of plastic into a circle just big enough to fit into the bottom of the cake. Together with the pastry cream and pastry, it’s a mellow and rich combination.

spiced date & cream gateau basque

spiced date gateau basque

  • Servings: one 7.5-inch diameter cake
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Pastry adapted from Mon Petit Four. Date paste adapted from Sohla El-Waylly. This is a fairly sweet recipe due to the sweetness of the dates and the sugar in the pastry (which I haven’t quite decimated as it has a bit of a tenderizing role), so I’ve kept the sugar in the pastry cream to a minimum.

special equipment: 7.5″ fluted tart ring (1″ tall)

pastry cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 14g cornstarch
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 240g whole milk
  • 1 tbsp butter

date paste

  • 150g whole dried dates
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch kosher salt

pastry

  • 85g butter, softened
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • finely grated zest from half an orange
  • 140g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

assembly

  • beaten egg for egg wash

pastry cream

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla bean paste. Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour the milk into the eggs, while whisking constantly to combine.

Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat while whisking constantly. Watch for slow bubbles to rise to surface (you’ll need to briefly pause whisking to see this) and once the cream is bubbling, continue to cook for 1 minute more, whisking vigorously, to ensure the starch is cooked. Immediately transfer the cream to a new bowl and whisk in the butter. Cover and let cool, then place in the fridge to chill completely.

date paste

Cover the dates with boiling water and let sit 20 minutes to hydrate. Drain and pit the dates, and place the dates in the bowl of the food processor. Process until chopped, add the oil and spices, and continue to process until the dates form a smooth puree. Chill until ready to use.

pastry

Cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the egg and orange zest until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed. Divide the dough into two pieces, one about 2/3 of the dough, and the other, the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Wrap each in plastic and chill completely in the fridge.

assembly

Lightly butter the tart ring. On a piece of parchment paper dusted with flour, roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle wide large enough to line the bottom of the tart tin. Aim for a dough thickness of about 0.5cm. This dough is very soft and delicate when it warms up, so if it has started to warm, slide the parchment paper onto a tray or cutting board and place in the fridge to chill again. Then use the dough to line the bottom of the tart pan. Tears are okay – just patch them up with a bit of extra dough. Trim any overhang.

The next layer is the date paste. Rather than spreading it, I found the best way to get a nice even layer is to roll out the date paste just like a piece of dough. The chilled paste will be quite firm, so use your hands to form it into a disc. Roll out the disc between two pieces of plastic wrap until to a round that fits in the bottom of the tart tin. Pull off the top piece of plastic, and place the round of date paste upside down into the bottom of the tart tin so that the bottom piece of plastic is on top. Peel off the plastic.

Next, dollop the chilled pastry cream overtop and spread into a smooth layer.

Now, place the final piece of dough on a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour (you can add any extra dough from the first piece) and roll into a circle large enough to cover the tart, aiming for a dough thickness of about 0.5cm. If the dough warms up too much, slide it onto a tray or board and chill it again. Otherwise, drape the dough over top of the tart and trim any excess. Now place the whole cake into the fridge to chill while you preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the cake from the fridge and place on a tray. Brush with beaten egg and use the tip of a paring knife to score lines over the top, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Bake for about 40 minutes or until browned. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

rosemary & yuzu kosho focaccia (& the cousin reviews…2021)

rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia

The Cousin (aka the Writographer) is my one and only loyal blog reader. As she lives across the country from me, she often doesn’t often get the chance to actually try my bakes but I always love hearing her impressions on the recipes. I went through our texts to collect some thoughts she had sent about the past year’s worth of recipes, for a bit of a blog year in review from her perspective. (Shared with my cousin’s permission!)

the cousin reviews…2021

Chocolate prune and whiskey ice cream: Why would you add prunes and whiskey to chocolate ice cream? Interesting though, just not my taste.  

Mango fennel mousse cake: The mango fennel mousse cake looks incredible!
Do I like mango? No…
Do I despise fennel? Yes…
But it looks really good. I am almost tempted.

Orange, fennel & almond biscotti: I almost like the flavours, but I hate fennel.

Grapefruit cream tart: I think I would eat that grapefruit tart! Yay, you’ve now made two things I’ll eat.

Saffron & cardamom hot cross buns: …hmm.

Burnt miso and star anise banana tarte tatin: Interesting. I am not a fan of bananas and I really dislike star anise. So…

Cardamom-poached rhubarb & browned butter almond tart: I hate cardamom, not sure about rhubarb and sometimes I like almond. But I love butter.

Beet morning glory muffins: Your photos for the muffins look so good! But I don’t think I’d enjoy them… (beets, coconut, raisins, and pecans…)

Caramelized banana houjicha cream puffs: Apart from the banana, the cream puffs look delicious!

Spiced chestnut pumpkin tart: I’m surprised that you’re still cooking with chestnut purée. I am scarred for life.
Pie looks great though.
Ugh I will never have chestnut puree again.

(While this might make my cousin sound picky, she does seem to eat just about anything I give her (including many of the ingredients she professes to dislike) so either she is far too trusting or far less picky than she thinks, or both.)

rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia
rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia
rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia
rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia

I made this rosemary focaccia with the addition of yuzu kosho, a fermented yuzu and chili condiment (for more on yuzu kosho and ways to use it, look at this article from Just One Cookbook!). The yuzu kosho provides spice and a bit of citrus, a combination I love along with the rosemary, and acts to really brighten up the focaccia. I’m also a big fan of this dough, adapted from a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe: high hydration, springy and rises with a great craggy crumb.

I am on the fence about how edible my cousin thinks this focaccia would be. While I think she would like the yuzu kosho, I’m not sure how she feels about rosemary… (Edit: the cousin has spoken – rosemary is fine but she is not sure about the spice from the yuzu kosho… until next time she visits, I suppose!)

rosemary yuzu kosho focaccia

rosemary & yuzu kosho focaccia

  • Servings: one 9 by 13-inch pan
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Dough adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. 

dough

  • 300g all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 240g water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + more for the pan

topping

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp green yuzu kosho
  • 1 heaping packed tbsp rosemary leaves
  • coarse salt

To make the dough, combine all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Once a rough dough is formed, cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

To knead in a mixer, use the dough hook (about 10-15 minutes on medium speed; probably quicker on a higher speed) and work the dough until very stretchy and elastic and at least close to passing the windowpane test. It will become less sticky as you go on.

To knead by hand, as it’s a very well hydrated and sticky dough, this is a perfect time to use the slap and fold method à la Richard Bertinet (Beranbaum describes a method to do with pinching the dough to elongate it but I expect it accomplishes the same thing). Pick up the dough in both hands and slap it down on the countertop. Pull the part of the dough you’re holding towards you to stretch the dough, then fold it in half. Pick up the dough again, but this time from a 90 degree angle so that when you slap it back down the dough is rotated 90 degrees. Repeat. Throughout the process the dough will be very sticky, but that’s okay! Relax, tell yourself it’s okay that my hands are coated in sticky dough, and try not to use any additional flour. I find the best way to keep myself motivated about kneading is to listen to music – this dough is a three-song knead (about 10 minutes). By the end, the dough should be supple and stretchy, and perhaps less sticky than it began.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with the damp cloth, and let rest twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, scrape it out onto a lightly floured surface. Stretch out the dough into a square and fold into thirds like a letter in one direction, and fold into thirds again in the other direction. Return to the bowl, rest another 20 minutes and repeat the folding.

Let the dough rise until it appears about doubled, 1-2 hours.

Pour a bit of olive oil into a 9×13″ metal baking tin and spread it around to grease the tin. Pull the dough out of the bowl and stretch it out in your hands first into a rectangular shape. Place the dough in the pan and turn it over so both sides are coated in oil. Use your fingers to stretch out the dough to fit the pan. It will probably spring back on your a bit so cover the pan, let the dough relax 15 minutes, and then stretch the dough again. (Repeat another time if needed – try not to overdo it on the olive oil and this process will be easier).

Allow to rise until bubbly and it appears somewhat doubled in height, approximately another 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough rises, whisk together the olive oil and yuzu kosho – it won’t become smooth, but the yuzu kosho will separate into smaller bits and become more distributed throughout the oil. Add the rosemary leaves and mix.

Preheat the oven to 450F near the end of the rise.

Once the dough is risen, dip your hands in water and use your fingers to deeply dimple the dough all over, pressing down to the bottom of the pan. Use a spoon to scatter the oil mixture evenly, being sure to get some yuzu kosho clumps in each spoonful, over the focaccia (you may need to use your fingers to separate the rosemary leaves to prevent them from clumping). Sprinkle generously!! with salt.

Place the focaccia in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until browned on top.

cookie box 2021

cookie box 2021

I was hoping that this holiday would be a bit of a return-to-normal compared to last year, though it’s ended up being another quiet holiday season and only the most minimal of gathering. Nevertheless, there are still way too many cookies of course…

(Aside from the people, food is the second best part of the holidays.)

cookie box 2021
cookie box 2021

This year I’ve made a mostly nut-free cookie lineup (there is one glaring exception – the obviously very almondy bethmannchen) to accommodate for allergies at my lab, the main cookie recipients for this year. I started off with a batch of omnipresent speculoos – a buttery spiced cookie – the one cookie I am certain to make annually. The coffee cardamom stars, drizzled with dark chocolate, were inspired by a Dorie Greenspan recipe where she includes coffee grinds in the cookie; it gives them a slightly crunchy texture! I ended up using a mixture of both instant and ground coffee in these as I found it had better flavour than coffee grinds alone (I drink cheap pre-ground coffee so maybe that’s why…), and I love how strongly these cookies smell of both coffee and spice. The matcha wreath cookies were mostly included for cuteness and festive aesthetics – they are based on a recipe from Cho’s daily cook. The cookies are a bit of a pain to pipe, but they turn out wonderfully tender and not too sweet so that the white chocolate doesn’t overwhelm.

For a shortbread option, I made a basic shortbread with milk powder that I dry toasted in a pan – it’s an ingredient I had played with a bit previously, but here I let it star alone in a cookie where it tastes like a cross between milk powder and caramel. I also always like including a snowball cookie of some sort, so for a nut-free alternative, I went with a coconut and rooibos snowball. And as opposed to linzer cookies, which contain nuts, I made fennel seed and grapefruit marmalade thumbprints (they add some tart and bitterness to the box, which is refreshing amidst all the butter!). Last year I really enjoyed the orange cranberry rosemary slice cookies so this year I followed them up with a haw flake and orange slice. If you haven’t come across them, haw flakes are a pressed dry candy made of hawthorn; I used to eat them all the time as a kid. The cross-section of the cookies look a bit like giant sprinkles (or less appealingly, like pieces of ham?) and the haw flakes have a bit of tartness to them and take on a pleasant chew once baked.

After I had finished with my nut-free baking and those cookies had been given away, I did add one extremely nutty cookie to make up for the otherwise dearth of nuts: the dome-shaped bethmannchen which are essentially baked nuggets of marzipan. (Wonderful, in other words.) As a last addition, I made some ponche de creme sandwich cookies, based around the flavours of the Trinidadian eggnog: a cinnamon, nutmeg and lime cookie sandwiching a rum and angostura-spiked white chocolate ganache.

Happy holidays and stay safe.

cookie box 2021

recipes are below

speculooscoffee cardamom starsmatcha wreath cookiestoasted milk powder shortbreadcoconut rooibos snowballsfennel marmalade thumbprintshaw flake & orange slicesbethmannchenponche de creme sandwiches

cookie box 2021

speculoos

Recipe can be found in the 2019 holiday cookie box.

cookie box 2021

coffee cardamom stars

  • Servings: 20-25 6cm cookies
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These cookies are fragrant with coffee and spices. I like just a bit of chocolate on them to go with, but not cover up, the flavours. Inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s coffee cardamom cookies from Dorie’s Cookies. Base dough adapted from Alton Brown’s sugar cookie recipe.

  • 80g whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 37g brown sugar
  • 10g egg
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
  • 25g dark chocolate, melted

Whisk together the flour, coffee grinds, spices, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light. Mix in the egg until combined, followed by the dissolved instant coffee. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until a soft dough is formed. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 0.4cm thick. Slide onto a tray and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Take the chilled dough out and use a 6cm star cutter (or other shape of choice) to cut shapes from the dough. You will get about 25 if you also re-roll the scraps. Transfer the cookies to the prepared tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned around the edges and bottom. You may need to bake the cookies in two batches if they don’t all fit on the tray – keep any remaining dough and cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.

Once cooled, if desired, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Spread out the cookies on a piece of parchment. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a very small fine round tip and drizzle over the cookies. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

matcha wreath cookies

  • Servings: about 20 5cm cookies
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Based on Cho’s daily cook.

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 62g powdered sugar
  • 30g (1) egg white
  • 135g cake flour
  • 6g matcha
  • 60g melted white chocolate
  • chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds (or pistachios)

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. Add the egg white a bit at a time and beat in until smooth. Sift the cake flour and matcha together and add to the butter mixture, mixing until a soft dough is formed.

Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (I used an unbranded one with a maximal opening diameter of 1.5cm). Pipe 5cm circles. Depending on the size of your tip, you should get about 20 cookies. Place the tray in the fridge to chill completely.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F. Bake about 12 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate and dip the “seam” of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on a parchment lined tray and sprinkle with chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds or pistachios. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

toasted milk powder shortbread

  • Servings: 10-12 4cm cookies
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Shortbread based on the classic 1:2:3 ratio modified for the addition of milk powder.

  • 15g dry milk powder
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 64g all-purpose flour

Begin by dry toasting the milk powder. Place the milk powder in a small pan and put over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a spatula, until the milk powder becomes golden. Once golden, immediately transfer to another bowl to prevent burning. If the milk powder ever starts browning too quickly, immediately lower the heat or lift the pan from the stovetop. Let the toasted milk powder cool.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the milk powder and cream until combined, then add the milk. Finally add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Pat the dough into a log about 4cm (1 1/2″) in diameter. Place a bit of extra granulated sugar on a plate and roll the log in the sugar until coated. Wrap in plastic and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a tray with parchment paper. Place the log on a cutting board and slice cookies 1cm thick using a sharp knife. Give the log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side of the log from becoming flattened.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned along the edges and bottom.

cookie box 2021

coconut rooibos snowballs

  • Servings: 10-12 cookies
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An amalgamation of the recipe from Emma Laperruque’s pecan cookies and An Italian in My Kitchen’s almond cookies.

  • 56g butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • contents of 1 rooibos tea bag (2g coarsely ground tea)
  • good pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g desiccated shredded coconut, coarsely ground
  • 62g all-purpose flour
  • icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and 25g icing sugar together, then mix in the rooibos, salt, vanilla and coconut. Finally, add the flour and mix until just combined. If the dough is very soft you can chill it briefly – or go ahead and roll the cookies now.

Scoop tablespoons of the dough (about 15g each) and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on the prepared pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until firm to the touch and slightly browned on the bottom.

Roll in icing sugar while still warm, and then once more when they are cool.

cookie box 2021

fennel marmalade thumbprint cookies

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
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Adapted from Live Well Bake Often.

  • 113g butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
  • 145g all-purpose flour
  • about 1/4 cup marmalade (I used some homemade cardamom grapefruit marmalade) – if your homemade marmalade is quite watery, drain briefly before using

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the orange zest, salt and ground fennel seeds. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Scoop 1 tbsp (16g) portions of dough and roll between your palms into a smooth ball. Place on the prepared tray. Use your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to indent each cookie.

Place the cookies in fridge to chill for 20 minutes to slightly firm up. Dollop 1/2 tsp of marmalade in each indent.

Bake about 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.

cookie box 2021

haw flake & orange slice

  • Servings: 8-9 5cm cookies
  • Print

Adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies.

  • 15g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 mandarin orange or 1/2 a navel orange
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 8g egg white
  • 68g all-purpose flour
  • 15g haw flakes, separated and broken into small pieces

Rub the sugar and orange zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light. Next, mix in the salt and egg white. Tip in the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Lastly, add the haw flake pieces and mix until distributed into the dough.

Pat the dough into a log about 5cm (2″) in diameter. Roll so that the outsides are smooth and then wrap in parchment paper, twisting the ends closed. Place in the fridge and chill overnight or at least a few hours. It’s important that the dough is fully chilled and sufficiently firm so that the haw flake pieces stay in place while the cookies are being sliced.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take out the log of cookie dough from the fridge. Using a thin serrated knife, slice cookies about 0.7cm thick (a bit of a sawing motion can help cut through the haw flakes). Turn the cookie log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side from being flattened.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

cookie box 2021

bethmannchen

  • Servings: about 14 cookies
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Adapted from Anja Dunk’s Advent.

  • 100g almond flour
  • 8g cornstarch
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 25g marzipan, grated
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 15g egg white
  • about 42 blanched almonds
  • 1 egg yolk for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the almond flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, salt and grated marzipan in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the almond extract and orange blossom water and pulse a few more times to mix. Add the egg white and process until mixed and the dough comes together.

Scoop 14g portions of dough (about the size of a cherry tomato). Roll each one between your palms into a smooth ball and place on the prepared tray. Press three blanched almonds into the sides, with their pointy ends angling up to the centre of the cookie. Brush the cookies with beaten egg yolk. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until browned but still soft.

cookie box 2021

ponche de creme sandwich cookies

  • Servings: about 15 5cm cookies
  • Print

Dough adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies, as is the ganache.

cookie

  • 136g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lime
  • 113g (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 15g egg white
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

filling

  • 94g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 45g heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1/2 tsp angostura bitters
  • pinch salt
  • 7g butter
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest

cookie

Stir together the flour and spices.

Rub the sugar and lime zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light, then beat in the salt, egg white, and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until about 0.5cm thick. Chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a couple baking trays with parchment paper.

Use a 5cm (2″) round cutter to cut rounds from the dough. Reroll the scraps (chilling again as needed) and cut more cookies from there as well. Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges and bottom. You may need to bake in a couple of batches so keep any unbaked cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.

filling

Place the chopped chocolate in microwave safe bowl. In a small dish in the microwave or over the stovetop, heat cream until boiling. Stir in rum, bitters and salt and pour over chocolate. Let sit a minute, then stir until melted – if it doesn’t melt on its own, microwave for short intervals, stirring in between. Lastly add the butter and stir until mixed, and then mix in the lime zest.

Place ganache in fridge and stir every couple of minutes until it has cooled and is thick enough to hold its shape, but still soft.

Meanwhile, pair up the cookies by similar size and shape. Place one cookie from each pair upside down on a tray.

Transfer to piping bag fitted with round tip (0.7cm diameter, Wilton 12) and pipe filling on one cookie from each pair – make so that it is set about 0.5cm in from edge of cookie. Top with other cookie and press lightly until filling is close to the edges. These are best stored in the fridge for long-term storage.

black sesame babka

black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka

My friend and I had been talking about going for shaved ice for days. It was the smooth and creamy-style of shaved ice, where the ice is brushed up into ripples like bundled taffeta. The elegant pale grey of the black sesame flavour lent it the stately air of a flounce of ruffles that could be found at the sleeve of a nineteenth-century ball gown. And, most importantly, each order was voluminous: mounded up on the plate to reach approximately the volume of a small roast chicken.

Blinded by the beauty of its excess, we didn’t quite reckon with the reality of its quantity. A quarter of way through I was thoroughly done with black sesame. Halfway, I was full. By the three-quarter point I began to employ the secret technique of mashing the shaved ice into the melted pool at the bottom of the plate to make it seem as though there was less. My friend, a considerably more virtuous person than me, continued to eat with gallant determination until even she broke down and succumbed to her fullness. The plate had transformed from enticing mountain to a sneering, melting pool of a failure – and we left in shame.

black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka
black sesame babka

This happened a couple years ago, and from that point on, my love for black sesame was broken. I still like it, but not in the same way I used to. I was recalling this experience with my friend recently and found out that she never particularly cared much for black sesame to begin with… choosing black sesame was all my idea! (At least a fruit flavour would have been more manageable!)

Anyways, somehow, here is a black sesame babka. Eaten by the slice – buttery bread, with a toasted black sesame filling, a bit of icing for sweetness – it’s distinctly black sesame (but not too much black sesame as even I still enjoy it!). Besides, at one point, I did properly love this loaf – it’s a refresh of this old black sesame babka from my blog’s early days. I’ve made this one with instant yeast instead of sourdough and extra swirly for even more black sesame filling (oh joy).

black sesame babka

black sesame babka

Dough adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. 

dough

  • 150g bread flour or all purpose flour
  • 115g whole wheat flour
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 4g kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 large eggs
  • 95g water
  • 75g soft butter

filling

  • 60g soft butter
  • 60g ground black sesame seeds
  • 30g granulated sugar

baking

  • beaten egg for eggwash

glaze

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk or as needed

Begin by making the dough. In the bowl of a standmixer, whisk together the flours, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and eggs and mix until a rough dough is formed. The dough will be rather stiff. Use the dough hook to knead for a few minutes or until the dough smoothes out.

Add the soft butter a chunk at a time and work into the dough using the dough hook. As more butter is incorporated, the dough will become softer. You’ll have to scrape down the dough hook every so often as the dough rides up. Once all the butter is incorporated, knead for a few minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until doubled, an hour or two – or at this point, put the dough in the fridge to rise overnight.

Prepare the filling by mixing together all the filling ingredients.

Butter a loaf pan and line with a sling of parchment paper.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 38x28cm. Spread with the filling, sparing one strip of dough along a long edge where you will seal the roll. Brush that strip of dough lightly with water. Roll up into a log start at the opposite long edge and seal. Cut the roll in half length wise. Turn so both cut ends are facing up. Wind the two halves together by lifting up one end and placing it over the other, always keeping the cut sides facing up. Fold the braid in half (still keeping the cut edges facing upwards) and place in the prepared loaf pan. 

Let rise for an hour or two until puffed.

Later in the rise, preheat the oven to 400F.

Brush the loaf with egg wash. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes at 400F, then turn the temperature to 350F for the remainder of the baking.

Bake the babka for around 30-40 minutes or until the babka is nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 180F. 

To prepare the glaze, whisk the icing sugar with the milk, adding enough for a thick but runny glaze. Drizzle over the loaf once it has cooled and is only warm, not hot. Let loaf finish cooling for the glaze to set.

bureka with green harissa and eggs

bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is a bit of Calgary institution, and for good reason: think dark-crusted loaves, immaculate pastries and Israeli cuisine. A few years ago I had tried the the cheese bureka (or boureka), flaky pastry around salty cheese, warmed and filled with sliced egg and a herbaceous green harissa. It was one of the most immediately delicious things I’ve had.

Not a hmm, it’s growing on me delicious or a hmm, acquired taste delicious or even a hmm, actually that’s quite delicious. It was a OH, very delicious sort of thing. No time to hmm. As you might imagine, between the butter, flake, salt, spice and herb there is almost no path except to very delicious.

bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs
bureka with green harissa and eggs

Most often burekas tend to be filled with cheese, spinach, potato or meat (read more about the history and origin of burekas here!). I like how simple cheese filling plays the additional fillings. Making them yourself is never going to be quite Sidewalk Citizen, but it’s hard for it not to be still rather good! I’ve brought these on picnics too, with sliced eggs and green harissa in separate containers for the splitting and filling.

I’ve made these a number of times now and I often seem to end up with some filling leakage (probably because I like an overly generous filling and can’t stop myself…). The browned and crisped cheese filling is actually quite yummy…but to minimize filling leakage, I found these steps help:

  1. Ensure the dough is rolled out large enough for each square to be 4.5 to 5″ squares, otherwise they’ll be overfilled!
  2. Also ensure the dough is fairly thin, about 3mm. Use the recommended quantity of dough rolled to recommended dimensions. Too thick and they can pop open as happened to me in one batch!
  3. Seal the dough well – ensure you have a border free of filling, brush the border with a bit of egg or water to help it seal, and press down
bureka with green harissa and eggs

bureka with green harissa and eggs

Puff pastry from Joe Pastry, filling from Epicurious, and shaping more so from Tori Avey. Green harissa recipe from bon appetit. Inspiration from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery.

bureka

  • 350g puff pastry (a bit over half recipe, see below)
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • sesame seeds

filling

  • 50g (1/2 c) grated old white cheddar
  • 65g (1/2 c) crumbled feta
  • 1 egg
  • 18g (1 spoonful) thick yoghurt
  • ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

For the filling, mix together all ingredients.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle 9 by 14.5″ or 10 by 15″ (dough will be around 3mm thick). To prevent the dough from springing back as you roll it, you may need to rest the dough in the fridge once partially rolled out. Trim the edges to make a clean rectangle. Cut into six 4.5 to 5″ squares.

Place a generous tablespoon of filling on each square (you’ll probably have a bit extra). Brush a bit of beaten egg along the border to help it seal, then fold half the dough over onto itself to form a triangle. Press to seal.  To ensure there’s no leakage, make sure you at least have a border of 1 cm to seal with. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then turn down temperature to 350F for another 15-20 minutes or until very golden and puffed.

to serve

  • boiled eggs, sliced

green harissa

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, finely minced (use a small clove so garlic is not overwhelming)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c cilantro, chopped
  • juice from half a lemon (around 1.5 – 2 tbsp)
  • scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt

I won’t even attempt to provide instructions on boiling eggs! It’s is a very personal thing – in terms of preference, altitude, and stovetop, anyhow. For me, at a bit of a higher elevation, a creamy deeper yellow – but not runny – yolk takes 9 minutes of simmering, but at sea level it’s been closer to 7.5 minutes. Boil your eggs however it works for you!

To make the green harissa, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Taste and add lemon as needed.

To serve, open a warm bureka, spread with green harissa and top with sliced egg.

puff pastry

  • Servings: about 650g pastry
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From Joe Pastry – see here for recipe and here for lamination instructions. His lamination instructions are a gem – both for the instructive pictures, but also for the gleeful lines such as “when making pastry, violence is always the first resort.” Indeed. 

  • 250g a.p. flour
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 35g soft butter
  • 113g water
  • 1/4 tsp vinegar (which I’ve read elsewhere helps prevent discolouration of the dough – likely referring to the oxidation of the flour)

butter slab

  • 252g butter
  • 2 tbsp a.p. flour

Make the dough: whisk together/use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to combine the flour and salt. Add in the butter, mixing into it’s fairly incorporated. Add the water and vinegar, mixing until a dough is beginning to be formed – at this point switch to the dough hook. Add a bit of water at a time if some dry flour remains until it is all incorporated. Knead just until a cohesive dough is formed. Wrap in plastic and chill at least a couple hours.

Once the dough is chilled, make the butter slab: Lay the butter on a double layer of plastic wrap, sprinkling over the flour. Cover with more plastic and use a rolling pin to smack the butter flat. Turn the butter over onto itself to help incorporate the butter and smack again, continuing as needed until the butter becomes soft and flexible, but still cool to the touch and not shiny or greasy appearing, at which point it would be too warm. As you do this, use the pin or a ruler as a straight edge to mold the butter into a tidy square shape.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a square a bit larger than the butter slab. Lay the butter slab on the square dough like a diamond, so the points of the butter slab point to, and nearly touch, the midpoint of each side. Pull each corner of the dough to the middle of the butter slab in order to seal in the butter slab. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.

Smack with a rolling pin starting from the middle out in each direction to help distribute the butter into all the far reaches of the envelope. Once the butter has been distributed, start rolling out into a large rectangle – my dough may have been around 1 cm thick or so. I haven’t put in any specifics on dimensions because at this point I don’t think it matters too much – and I found that not worrying about measurements made the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable. Fold the dough into thirds along the largest dimension to form a new, smaller rectangle to complete the first fold. Wrap tightly in plastic to prevent the outside of the dough from drying out and chill for 1 hour.

For the second fold, lightly flour the counter and again roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Fold into thirds, then wrap tightly and chill for another hour. Repeat the process four times more for a total of six folds. The dough is then ready to use.

apple butter gingerbread rolls with browned butter icing

apple butter gingerbread rolls

Remember back when I started this blog and wrote a halfhearted 2-second blog tagline which ended up staying permanently? Books(?), I thought. I sometimes still read. Sort of. Maybe I’ll write about books. Let’s put books(?) to be safe.

Today it’s only gotten worse. I read one novel in 2020 (plus one graphic novel)- it was perfect for the early pandemic days when I had the massive privilege of being able to stay home, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, about a man under house arrest in peri-revolution Russia.

Recently I confided that I had not read anything in 2021 over the phone with my cousin (The Cousin, in fact). Reading is second nature for The Cousin so understandably she gasped in abject horror.

apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls

But! I finally read something this year (The Cousin, I know you’ll read this eventually so… LOOK! I read!). Helen Oyeyemi has been one of my favourite authors since I first chanced across her novel Mr. Fox in high school. Most recently, she wrote Peaces in which a couple alights, due to some slight coercion, aboard a mysterious train for their not-honeymoon honeymoon. The train has a sauna carriage, a portrait gallery and a holding cell (of course), and three other passenger-residents plus or minus a few others.

It was an effortlessly engaging read, in a way that I had forgotten novels can be. With Oyeyemi, I think it’s always how she builds the balance and juxtaposition inherent in magical realism. There are fantastical situations and as equally fantastical characters, but in their interaction they are all the more real: half-grounded, half-positively buoyant. And in Peaces, it is the way stories are nested within stories within stories; they unfurl amongst anecdotes and dialogues and letters and then telescope back to the present. And it’s the way that everything is so carefully, deliberately connected. (In summary, unequivocal recommendations from me!)

apple butter gingerbread rolls

And, for fall, here are some buns. A lightly spiced gingerbread molasses bun, with the heft of the flavour carried by the tart apple butter filling and browned butter icing. As much as I like to avoid frostings, there really is something about a frosted bun – so the buns themselves are minimally sweetened to balance the frosting, which itself is surprisingly browned buttery.

apple butter gingerbread rolls

apple butter gingerbread rolls with browned butter icing

Icing vaguely based on Striped Spatula’s brown butter glaze.

gingerbread dough

  • 175g whole wheat flour
  • 50g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp star anise
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 120g milk at room temperature
  • 40g molasses
  • 32g egg
  • 50g soft butter

filling

  • 200g apple butter (recipe below)
  • 25g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

browned butter icing

  • 40g butter
  • 55g icing sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp cream

For the dough, in a bowl, combine the flours, yeast, spices and salt. Add the milk, molasses and egg. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed. Knead on a lightly floured counter until smooth, then knead in a chunk of the butter at a time until all the butter is incorporated.

Place the dough in a container and let rise in the fridge overnight.

For the filling, combine all the ingredients. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

The next day, butter an 8″ square pan and line with a parchment paper sling. Take the dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured countertop until it is rectangle about 12×14″. Spread with the filling, aside from a strip of dough along one long edge where you will seal the roll. Brush this bare bit of dough with a bit of water to help the log seal.

Starting from the other long edge, roll up the dough into a log and pinch to seal. Use floss to cut into 9 pieces.

Arrange the pieces in the pan and cover. Let rise 1 1/2-2 hours or until puffed.

Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375F.

Bake the risen buns for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

For the icing, place the butter in a small pan and cook, stirring, until the butter solids are browned. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar and then the cream. As the butter cools, the frosting will thicken.

Spread the frosting over the buns while they are still slightly warm. Best eaten day of!

apple butter

To make the apple butter, place a few of cups of unsweetened applesauce (recipe here) in a saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the applesauce thickens in a thick, jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a jar and cool. Store in the fridge.

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

This ice cream has been a work in progress for a few years so I am glad to finally post it! I had initially envisioned it as a persimmon houjicha ice cream with hachiya persimmon pureed into the ice cream base. In try #1, I had let the ice cream base sit for a couple days before churning and it took on a the fermented flavour of very over-ripened persimmon. A year later, when persimmon season returned, a second try did not taste much better, even when churning the ice cream right away – though in part it might be because I am a bit oversensitive to the taste of overripe fruit. To avoid any over-ripeness issue, once persimmon season swung around once more the following year, I tried roasting fuyu persimmons (which do not need to be fully ripened to eat) and then pureed that. The roasting merely dried out and toughen the persimmons, which yielded a “puree” of coarsely chopped fibres that could have been a particularly orange hairball. I couldn’t bear to put that in the ice cream (ate it over oatmeal instead) so I tried churning the houjicha base on its own – and loved it.

I still wanted the persimmons in there somehow though, so I also prepared some caramelized fuyu persimmon slices to go alongside. It’s a wonderfully mellow and autumnal combination. Sometimes I guess it doesn’t all need to be crammed into the ice cream itself!

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

This ice cream base is made with a long and slow cold infusion using looseleaf houjicha (roasted green tea). I’ve been really tending towards the long cold infusions lately as a way to get lots of flavour. While sometimes tea can get a bit bitter, the roasting of the houjicha helps it remain mellow despite a long infusion – strong flavour without the bitterness – and goes it so well with a milky ice cream base!

That and warm caramelized persimmons spooned overtop… sometimes it’s not too bad when your initial plans go awry.

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

  • Servings: 2 cups ice cream base
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houjicha ice cream

  • 280g heavy cream
  • 5g loose leaf houjicha
  • 240g milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, or to taste

caramelized persimmons

  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
  • butter
  • salt

houjicha ice cream

Combine the cream and houjicha in a container. Cover and let steep for 48 hours in the fridge. Press through a sieve to extract the cream. 

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour the hot milk into the yolks while whisking constantly to temper, then return the milk mixture to the saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the temperature reaches 160-180F or the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn in it. Immediately transfer to a bowl or container. 

Stir in the infused cream (and taste for sweetness – add more sugar if desired!) and chill the ice cream base completely. Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

caramelized persimmons

This makes enough for about 4 servings. Scale up or down depending on how much ice cream and many people you’re serving. 

Begin by making a caramel syrup. Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add enough water to dissolve the sugar. Bring the water to a boil until the sugar is dissolved (if you stir, make sure you swirl the pan to pick up and dissolve any granules of sugar along the sides!), and then continue to boil until the sugar syrup caramelizes, reaching a deep amber colour. Whisk in the 2 tbsp of water. Be careful while adding the water as the caramel may sputter a bit. If parts of the caramel harden, return to the heat, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool until needed.

Melt 1 tsp of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced persimmons and saute until softened. Spoon in 2-3 tbsp of the caramel syrup and stir until the persimmon slices are coated in syrup and it has formed a smooth sauce.

Take the ice cream out from the freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving. Scoop and serve with the caramelized persimmons.  

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

If there is a film which I’ve watched a number of times, it’s probably the original 90s Jumanji, about a board game come to life. Growing up, movie nights meant a brisk walk to the neighbourhood convenience store. On one side of the cash, against papered up windows, there were a few wire shelves of video cassettes in protective plastic sleeves. It was not the broadest or particularly updated selection. With only a few kids films, I always chose the only one I recognized, one which I had seen in school for Halloween (this is as close as relevant we’re getting for the recipe so make note). In other words, I watched Jumanji a whole lot.

There were two convenience stores in the neighbourhood I grew up in, though now they’re both gone. When I think back, I am surprised at how they kind of did play some role in my childhood – a source of after school snacks, a place to drop off lost keys at the lost-and-found, and that small movie corner which defined the entertainment available to me and the neighbourhood. Maybe in some ways it was a common denominator for the community – yes there was a big Blockbuster a twenty minute walk away which held dozens of copies of new releases, but for those last minute spurious movie impulses, the convenience store shelves were most convenient. It makes me wish I remembered what else was there (excuse my tunnel vision for Jumanji). But maybe every other child in the neighbhourhood also watched Jumanji on repeat? Maybe. The fact that Jumanji was nearly always on the shelf probably meant that not so many people were renting video cassettes any more, anyways.

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

Halloween = pumpkins and Halloween = Jumanji and so Jumanji = pumpkins and so here is a pumpkin recipe. This is a riff on pumpkin pie (quite literally as a I referenced the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin while making this) but a sort of ambiguously autumnal version made with chestnut puree and a gently infused spiced milk. Plus, a kinako (roasted soybean powder) cream ring which I did on a whim, but loved – it complements the squash and chestnuts so well. (Maybe try a dusting of kinako on your pumpkin pie?)

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

  • Servings: eight inch tart
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Adapted, vaguely, from the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin.

special equipment: 8-inch fluted tart tin

infused milk

  • 100g milk
  • 100g heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • pinch peppercorns
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger

pastry

  • 210g flour, half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 115g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg

filling

  • 125g chestnut puree (pure chestnut puree; not creme de marron)
  • 125g pumpkin puree
  • 40g maple syrup
  • 7g granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 75g eggs (1 1/2 large eggs)
  • 180g infused milk

to serve

  • 120g whipped cream
  • 4g kinako (optional)
  • garnishes – salted roasted squash seeds and sliced roasted chestnuts

For the infused milk, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Pass the milk through a sieve to remove the spices before using.

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and process until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and process until the dough comes together – it will take about 30 seconds.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and let soften on the counter for about 10-15 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick or your desired thickness. Trim into a rough circle, about 11″ in diametre. Drape over an 8″ tart tin and press into all the corners and up the sides. Trim any excess and patch any tears (it’s a delicate pastry so it may happen, but it’s easy to fix!).

Cover and place in the fridge to chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Dock the bottom of the tart crust with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is crisp, but still pale. Set aside and begin making the filling.

For the filling, lower the heat to 325F. Press the chestnut puree through a fine sieve to make sure it is smooth, then cream the chestnut puree and pumpkin puree together in a bowl. Add the maple syrup, sugar and salt and mix until combined, then whisk in the eggs. Lastly, blend in the infused milk.

Pour the filling into the partially baked crust (if not all of it fits, you can bake the leftover in a muffin cup lined with a paper liner). Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until only the centre jiggles and an inserted knife is removed clean.

Let cool, then chill completely.

Finish with the garnishes. Whip the cream and kinako in a bowl until billowy (if you don’t have kinako, feel free to substitute a bit of sugar and vanilla extract instead). Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a petal tip and pipe cream along the edge of the tart. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and slices of roasted chestnut.

caramelized banana houjicha cream puff

caramelized banana houjicha cream puff
caramelized banana houjicha cream puff

There was a textural divide in my home when I was growing up. To put it succinctly, I loved the mush. My sister, not so much. Sweet potato, squash, taro, steamed egg, thick rice pudding, cold tapioca, red bean soup, Bird’s custard: if you could glop it around with a spoon, I probably adored it while my sister wished it to burn – in order to get some crispy edges. Bananas, however, which can be incredibly mushy, were a point of agreement, something we both regarded with (varying) degrees of disdain.

Okay, but common ground aside, to me bananas still have their place. I do love a good banana flavour combination (except peanut butter) where the banana cheerfully coexists along other non-banana flavours and the end result is definitely banana, but not overly so. Banana-moderation, we can call it. And particularly in the context of caramel, even an overripe banana is delicious.

caramelized banana houjicha cream puff
caramelized banana houjicha cream puff
caramelized banana houjicha cream puff
caramelized banana houjicha cream puff

These cream puffs fit the bill. Houjicha, the toasted companion to green tea, has a taste that lingers between tea and dark roast coffee. It’s the star of these tea puffs, making up a pastry cream filling and whipped ganache against a caramelized banana compote (and bruleed banana half-moon).

It’s a great combination of toasty warm flavours, and yes, a really good hit of banana too.

caramelized banana houjicha cream puff

caramelized banana houjicha cream puff

  • Servings: 10 small puffs
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Craquelin adapted from the cream puff cookie topping from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien RouxelChoux pastry adapted from Alain Ducasse via Food and Wine. Ganache a random average of a few recipes, pastry cream based on standard ratios, and compote freehanded.

craquelin

Makes plenty – you might have leftovers, but you can cut them it into circles and freeze it for further baking. I happened to have 6 leftover craquelin rounds in the freezer which I used – hence why only half the puffs have craquelin in the photos. 

  • 28g brown sugar
  • 25g whole wheat flour
  • 18g butter

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a cohesive dough. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment and roll out to a thickness of 1-2mm. Slide onto a pan and freeze until firm.

whole wheat choux

Makes  10-12 small-medium puffs.

  • 29g or 1/4 stick of butter or about 2 tbsp
  • 60g/1/4 cup milk
  • good pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 30g or 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • approximately 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper – on the backside, trace 12 3.5cm circles.

Place the butter, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour and quickly mix in with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and continue to cook the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pastry from the heat and let cool slightly before adding the egg, a bit at a time, beaten into the pastry most easily with the aid of a wire whisk. The dough should now be shiny, but not fluid (if its something a bit new to you, look up a video or a more detailed tutorial for the right consistency!). Importantly, you don’t need to use all the egg – or you may need a bit more than one egg! Assess the consistency of the dough after each addition of egg – sometimes I stop with still a bit of egg left.

Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe mounds of pastry onto the 3.5cm circles, each approximately a tablespoon-ish in size. Take the craquelin out of the freezer and cut 3.5cm circles from the dough. Top each puff with a round of the craquelin.

Bake for 5 minutes at 400F, then decrease temperature to 375F and bake 20-25 minutes more or until well browned. You can rotate the puffs after they’ve been in the oven for 20-25 minutes or so, once there are no worries of them deflating. Cut a small slit on the bottom of each puff to let the steam release and let cool on on a wire rack.

caramelized banana compote

You’ll likely have a bit leftover.

  • 1 ripe banana, cut into quarters lengthwise and cut then cut crosswise into small chunks
  • 15g butter
  • 13g brown sugar

Heat butter and brown sugar together in a pan until the brown sugar melts. Add the banana and cook for a couple minutes or until the banana is soft. It will become quite saucy, but it will firm up as it cools.

houjicha pastry cream

Depending on how much banana compote you fill the puffs with, you’ll likely have a bit left over.

  • 250g whole milk
  • 4g houjicha, looseleaf or coarsely ground leaves
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 12g cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks

For the pastry cream, warm the milk until scalded. Stir in the houjicha. Cover and let steep overnight (or at least a few hours), transferring to the fridge once cool.

The next day, press the milk through a strainer and weigh – top up with a little more to bring it back to 250g if needed.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Return to the saucepan and continue to cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just starts to bubble (you will have to pause your whisking to see it bubble). Let it cook, now whisking very vigorously, for a minute at a bubble, the immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover, let cool, and chill.

whipped houjicha white chocolate ganache

Delicious, but as with anything using white chocolate, also so very sweet! If you are more averse to sweetness you can always use plain whipped cream. There will likely be a little bit extra left over. 

  • 60g chopped white chocolate
  • 100g heavy cream
  • 1 tsp houjicha powder

Place the white chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl.

Heat the cream until it bubbles. Whisk a spoonful or two of the cream into the houjicha powder until smooth, then combine with the remainder of the hot cream.

Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. The white chocolate should completely melt, but if not you can always heat it a bit in the microwave, being careful not to overheat.

Chill completely. Just before you’re ready to use it, whip the ganache with a wire whisk until fluffy and stiff, like whipped cream. It’s best to do this right before so the ganache will be smoother when you pipe it.

assembly

  • banana slices, optionally bruleed by sprinkling with sugar and using either a torch or broiler

Trim the top off of each cream puff. Spoon a bit of banana compote into the bottom.

Transfer the pastry cream to a piping bag and fill the remainder of each puff with the pastry cream (I like using a long filling tip ie a bismark tip mostly just so I can get into all the corners of the cream puff and ensure it is filled).

Transfer the whipped white chocolate ganache to a piping bag, fitted with a large petal tip (if you have a St. Honore tip, I think that would work even better!). Pipe the ganache on top of each puff in a squiggly pattern.

Top each puff with a halved slice of banana, optionally bruleed. Best eaten soon.

beet morning glory muffins

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

The muffin spectrum holds un-iced cakes on one end, early bird dessert masquerading in a more casual form, while the other side houses the muffin traditionalists, hefty with whole grains, nuts, fruits or vegetables. I think both ends are equally wonderful but today we come from I think of as the penultimate muffin-muffin: the morning glory. It’s the have-it-all muffin – have the carrots and spices from the carrot muffin, plus the apple from the apple muffin and the raisins from the bran muffin and the coconut, pecan and orange zest from the who-knows-what muffins. In other words, it’s a muffin with ambitions!

I had my first (of a total of two, aside from this batch) morning glory muffins a couple of years ago at a random cafe in downtown Toronto. I was really just looking for something to eat to tide myself over for the next few hours but I was surprised by how much I loved the – to put it inarticulately – muffin-like flavour. And as I was thinking about it, morning glory muffins, have so many flavours that go so well with beets – apple, spices, nuts and citrus. That, and I had a lot of beets.

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

These are a very classic morning glory muffin, just made with beets instead. While consulting some recipes, I found that they all seemed to follow the same basic ratios – about 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 2 cups of carrots and 1 apple. It was in the ratio of oil to other liquids that things varied – this allrecipes one, at the height of decadence, called for 1 cup of oil, down to Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe which used only 1/3 of a cup, the rest replaced with orange juice and applesauce. I decided to go middle of the road most closely following King Arthur Flour with about 2/3 cup of oil and some additional milk. I’ve also used 100% whole wheat flour because, of course.

The batter seems impossibly meager and thoroughly incapable of containing all the firey sunset-hued beet strands, not to mention the apple, nuts, raisins…. but somehow in the oven it enfolds the coarse spaghetti-like mess into its body. and out comes a muffin. It will also appear like way too much per muffin – but pile each muffin cup a bit high and after a stint in the oven, this will reward you with dangerously domed tops and one of the heftiest muffins I’ve ever held.

One last thing – I find raw beets are quite hard to grate by hand (even harder than carrots) so I recommend using the grating attachment on a food processor if you have it.

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

beet morning glory muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
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Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

  • 250g (2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or nutmeg)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 37g (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 80g (generous 1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 133g neutral oil
  • 60g whole milk (or orange juice)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 200g (2 packed cups) peeled and shredded raw beets
  • 1 large apple, cored and shredded
  • 80g (slightly generous 1/2 cup) raisins, soaked in hot tea to plump, and then drained

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, salt, coconut and pecans.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk, vanilla and orange zest until smooth. Then stir in the shredded beets, shredded apple and drained raisins.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon until you no longer see streaks of dry flour and all the flour is moistened. Distribute the batter amongst the 12 muffin cups – you’ll need to pile up the batter a bit.

Place in the oven for 5 minutes at 425F, then lower the temperature to 350F. Bake another 15 minutes or so, rotating partway through baking. Check doneness by poking a thin wooden skewer into the centre of a muffin and look for there only to be a few crumbs clinging or for it to be clean.