fruitcake (2020)

fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020

Happy winter holidays! Every year around this time we pull out the fruitcakes: dark, sticky, dense, eighty percent dried fruit, full of tradition and less so, elegance.

While the exciting time, when we can taste the cake, is now, the process usually starts in late summer or fall. Brushed with rum and wrapped up in paper and a double layer of plastic, the cakes age in the dark whilst pondering their existence for at least a few months – or a few years (the best fruitcakes are old and existential).

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invisible tosca cake

invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake

Gateau invisible is a deceptive cake – made nearly entirely of apples, it’s named for way the thin slices seem to “disappear” into the batter. Like a number of desserts, it’s one which seems to have gained more traction in Japan than in it’s native France.

The cake is often scattered with a topping of slivered almonds before baking, though, for a bit of fun, I’ve borrowed the crackly, caramelized almond topping from the Scandavian toscakake. Doing so echoes the beloved pairing of apple, caramel and nuts while providing textural contrast between clafoutis-like custardy cake and crisp top.

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strawberry rooibos almond cake (& the nagoya protocol)

strawberry almond rooibos cake

Rooibos tea comes from the plant Aspalathus linearis which grows only in the Western and Northern Cape areas. San and Khoi people, the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, have been harvesting, processing and drinking rooibos tea long before colonial times, passing traditional knowledge regarding the medical properties of rooibos between generations.

Under colonialism, the atrocities of genocide, enslavement and resource extraction concentrated political, economic and social power in the hands of colonists. One of those resources was the traditional knowledge around rooibos; during the apartheid in South Africa, the Rooibos Tea Control Board held a complete monopoly over production and marketing.

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peach houjicha mousse cake

peach houjicha mousse cake

Earlier in the spring The Alley, a Taiwanese tea chain, (I get too many ideas from bubble tea places) had a houjicha and peach series; my roommate and I longingly stared at the sign in the window as we walked by on our way to the store to stock up on rice and instant ramen. I ended up never trying any of the drinks as the pandemic came into full force soon after, but I’ve been keeping the flavour combination in mind.

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strawberry daifuku mont blanc cakes

strawberry daifuku mont blanc

strawberry daifuku mont blanc
strawberry daifuku mont blanc
strawberry daifuku mont blanc

Mont blanc is traditionally a chestnut and cream dessert. The components vary, but it is always easily recognized by its pathognomonic piped spaghetti-like strands of chestnut cream – there is a piping tip specific for it (which I recommend acquiring if you plan to make mont blanc a regular thing as trying to do this with a single or tri-hole tip is… terrible.)

Mont blanc was enthusiastically adopted in Japan in 1945, where it seems to have gained more traction than in its French home. And as is the great thing with adopted foods, they come into their own in their own ways. While I love the chestnut and cream profile of the original, I can take a cue from the strawberry, sakura, sweet potato, and matcha versions that abound to try something different as well.

In this case, I based mine around strawberry daifuku, a whole strawberry typically encased in anko (sweetened red bean paste) and wrapped in mochi.

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coconut, genmaicha & strawberry layer cake

genmaicha, coconut & strawberry layer cake
genmaicha, coconut & strawberry layer cake

What is a weed? If one cared to ask the right people with the right intonation (and maybe a single, raised brow), it could elicit a plethora of answers – do we consider intention, indigeneity, utility?

My favourite is a succinct and pragmatic definition from an expert with the local horticultural society: a weed is anything that you don’t want growing there. It’s a definition that allows for flexibility, including both intention and allowing some spur of the moment impulse. Hence the reseeded spinach crowding out other seedlings, yes, can be a weed. And, alternatively, something you didn’t intend to grow, but that you’ve become rather fond of, can stay.

For instance, bright pink, miniature peony-like poppies first began appearing in the community garden a few years ago, and each year they grow more numerous. This year they’ve gone rogue – you can find them spindling up through the canopy of potatoes, growing alongside peas, and in some plots, even an entire patch.

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blueberry layer cake (& we must defund the police)

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Currently in Toronto there is motion that has been put forth by Councillor Josh Matlow and seconded by Kristyn Wong-Tam to reduce the police budget by at least 10% and invest in community resources. Mayor John Tory then submitted his own motion (which as mayor, appears directly on the agenda) in order to bypass defunding of the police, taking the sympathy of councillors that may have otherwise supported the motion to defund. Unfortunately, this is not an acceptable compromise and one that will likely lead to an increase in police budgets if body cameras are implemented. Read Anthony Swan’s breakdown of Tory’s motion here and act now by referring to his page here. 

Again and again advocates have been hitting a wall of reluctance to defund the police by those in political power. Why do people have such differing opinions on defunding the police? I found one answer articulated by Sandy Hudson’s (co-founder of BLM Toronto) article in the Huffington Post –  much of it has to do with different communities have fundamentally different experiences and relationships with police, first of all in the quantity of interactions, and secondly in the nature of those interactions.

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green curry banana bread

green curry & coconut banana breadgreen curry & coconut banana breadgreen curry & coconut banana bread

Growing up, I lived vicariously through the menus of far-away bakeries. One time, while randomly perusing bakery websites, I saw a green curry banana bread at milk bar. Since then, on the rather rare occasions I’ve made banana bread, I’ve transposed the combination of Thai green curry paste and coconut from one banana bread recipe to the next until I settled on my current favourite adaptation. Because while I’ve never been too big a fan of banana bread, there are exceptions. For example, an exception flavoured with green curry paste and (this part just began a few years ago, but thank goodness it did:) crested with a crispy coconut fragipane of sorts.

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mocha java loaf

mocha java cakemocha java cake

This is day 10 of 10 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Harbord Bakery is an everything bakery – the main wall lined with shelves proffering rye breads, fluffy challah, dense poppy seed Danish rings, and the fabled Thursday-through-Sunday-only chocolate babka. In comparison, the mocha java cake is a bit more discreet. We’ve only ever seen it in the freezer section, innocuously tucked away against the lemon and blueberry loaves. My roommate bought it once out of curiosity – a deep brown loaf cake with a tight, silky crumb, and intense coffee flavour. We devoured it within days – a slice for breakfast, oh a slice for afternoon snack, maybe another with tea in the evening. It’s such an anticipated treat that when we do buy it, we usually crack open the plastic clamshell as soon as we get home and eat the first piece (or two) while still frozen, breaking the softly brittle slices into pieces in our hands. It is just as great frozen too.

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