hot cross bun loaf

hot cross bun loaf

I remember eating supermarket hot cross buns as a child and wishing there was no fruit in them at all (I was an extra strange child.) But these days the fruit is my favourite part… and no hot cross bun ever really has enough dried fruit in it for me. So in this loaf, I succumbed to all my hot-cross-bun-dreams, with the ratio of weight of fruit and peel to flour being 1:1! The end result in a spiced, soft bread replete with all the dried fruit and peel one could hope for – but not too much that it overly weights the dough down. Toasted and buttered, it makes for a very nice breakfast indeed.

hot cross bun loaf
hot cross bun loaf
hot cross bun loaf
hot cross bun loaf

For the dough itself, I worked off of what has become my usual hot cross bun dough. It bakes up very nicely in loaf form, though if you’d rather, this could make 10-12 buns instead. Alongside the classic raisins and currants, I included dried apricots – one of my favourite dried fruits, which I suppose I hadn’t put in buns previously because it would feel like I was pushing out the raisins and currants. But here, with this much fruit, there’s enough room for everyone. (And they make for nice golden cubes in the terrazzo-like cross-section.)

This dough is only partially whole wheat to keep it from being too dense. And yes, the dough will look a little ridiculous, with bits of fruit falling out everywhere, but keep in mind that the fruit will spread apart as the dough rises – and that the whole point of this loaf is the fruit!

hot cross bun loaf

hot cross bun loaf

Dough based on previous hot cross buns.

  • 60g dried currants
  • 80g raisins
  • 100g dried apricots, cut into raisin-sized dice
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 145g all-purpose flour + 5g wheat gluten (or 150g bread flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1 large egg
  • 190g whole milk
  • 55g butter, softened
  • 73g candied orange peel, chopped
  • beaten egg, for egg wash
  • flour cross: 30g flour and about 30-32g water

Begin by plumping up the dried fruit. Combine the dried fruit in a jar or bowl and cover with a cup of hot tea – if your fruit is extremely dried out, you may want to let it sit and plump overnight. Otherwise, half an hour or so is good enough to just soften. Once done, drain the dried fruit and pat dry.

Stir together the flours, wheat gluten, instant yeast, salt and spices in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg and milk and stir until a soft dough is formed. Knead using the dough hook (alternatively, do this by hand) until the dough is smooth. Add the butter a lump at a time, working in each addition before the next. Knead for a few more minutes to ensure the dough is soft, stretchy and elastic. Add the dried fruit and chopped peel and knead into the dough. It will look a bit ridiculous but the fruit will spread out as the dough rises.

Cover the dough and let rise until puffed, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (as there is a lot of dried fruit, the volume won’t have appeared to have doubled). Meanwhile, grease a loaf tin and line with a parchment paper sling (I used a 9x4x4″ pullman loaf tin – the amount of dough could be a bit much for a standard loaf tin).

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight equal pieces, each about 120g. Roll each piece into a ball and pack together in two rows of four in the loaf tin. Pick off any pieces of dried fruit or peel which have come to the surface (uncovered by dough) as they will burn in the oven. Cover and let rise until well puffed, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F. Stir together the flour and water for the flour cross and transfer the paste to a piping bag fitted with a very fine round tip (I used a tip with a 2mm diameter opening). Once the dough is risen – it won’t appear doubled due to all the dried fruit – brush the loaf with a bit of beaten egg. Use the piping bag to pipe lines of flour paste over the loaf.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until well browned and the internal temperature reaches at least 190F. (I found this took a bit of a longer longer bake then I expected – if you have a thermometer, I recommend checking the internal temperature to make sure the centre is cooked through!) Let cool 5 minutes in the loaf tin, then finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve in slices smeared with lots of butter.

salted maple rosemary pecan squares

salted rosemary maple pecan squares

This recipe is a lower sugar version of pecan squares for my grandma, who says she loves pecans but really just loves pecans in the sugary form of pie or squares. Making these squares was a game of how low can you go? – with each batch I cut back some more (with some adjustment to other ingredients as needed) until I went a bit too far. To be clear, this is a lower sugar dessert, not exactly a low sugar dessert – there’s still 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/3 of a cup of maple syrup in these bars… but it provides a muted sweetness if you prefer less sweet desserts with plenty of focus on the pecans, salt and rosemary.

As with everything when you make significant cuts to sugar, you need to adjust your expectations – these bars have zero goo, so if you are the thick-and-gooey-pecan-bar sort of person, this is not the right recipe. The consistency of these bars have their own charm though! They’re crisp on top the first day, and sport a taffy-like chew in the middle. In my books, a texture worth the pleasantly subdued sweetness!

salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares
salted rosemary maple pecan squares

The first place the sugar went? The crust. When eating pecan bars, there are no opportunities to eat the crust on its own – it’s always in conjunction with the topping. With plenty of sweetness from the topping, I cut out the sugar from the crust and added enough salt to make it a salty/buttery counterpoint. I’ve also considered switching out the crumb crust for a creamed shortbread, but the crust actually has grown on me – the packed crumbs give the crust a bit of lightness.

The next thing I did was fiddle with the filling. I had some missteps here – the first time I tried halving the brown sugar without adjusting any of the other ingredients and I ended up with bars sopping with grease. It seems there’s a certain ratio of sugar to butter needed for a filling to be a cohesive mixture. The next time I made these bars (which only happened 4 years later… recipe development can be a rather prolonged process for me) I also cut down on the butter, which was much more successful. I’ve also been cooking the filling for longer to help concentrate the sugar.

Finally, I’ve also increased the presence of salt in these bars as a counterpoint to temper the sweetness – it doesn’t reduce the sugar, but does make it less achingly sweet. The rosemary infusion step, something I only added in the last couple of batches, gives the bars a woodsy savoury edge. I like it, but it’s very optional!

salted rosemary maple pecan squares

salted maple rosemary pecan squares

  • Servings: 16 squares
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Adapted from Williams-Sonoma (just because it was one of the first recipes to show up via search engine). See notes at end for other versions. Rosemary infusion method based on Ruby Tandoh’s rosemary pecan pie – it adds a subtle herbaceous woodiness that goes well with the pecans. But completely optional – I love the bars both with and without! These are lower sugar pecan bars that don’t have a “gooey” sugar layer – rather, they’re a bit chewy and mostly just packed pecans with a thin sugary glaze to hold it all together.

crust

  • 130g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • generous 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 86g (6 tbsp) cold butter
  • 2 tbsp of milk

filling

  • 43g (3 tbsp) butter
  • 100g (1/3 cup) maple syrup
  • 40g (¼ cup) brown sugar
  • two 4-inch sprig rosemary (leave out if you don’t want rosemary flavour)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp rum (or use more cream)
  • 200g (2 cups) coarsely chopped pecans

finishing

  • coarse or flaky salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper (bottom and sides).

To make the crust, pulse the flour, salt and butter together in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Drizzle in the milk and pulse a few times to mix. The crust will look like powder and most certainly not like a dough, but when you pinch some together between your fingers, it should hold together. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes until edges are starting to brown and middle is firm to touch. (It’s a strange looking crust, but once baked with the filling on top it does come together!).

After the crust is baked, prepare the filling. In a small saucepan, place the butter, maple syrup brown sugar and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Boil for for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and rum until smooth. Bring to a boil again, take off the heat and allow the rosemary to steep for 5 minutes more. Pull out the rosemary, draining off any excess syrup, and then stir in pecans. Scoop the pecans over the baked crust and spread out into an even layer, then spoon the remaining syrup left in the saucepan evenly overtop. 

Bake for around 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set when you shake the pan. The original recipe describes the baking process very accurately – there will be large bubbles earlier on in the bake, and transition to small bubbles near the end. Sprinkle the bars with a pinch of coarse/flaky salt while still hot so it will stick to the topping. Let cool completely in the tin (the bottom crust is delicate until it cools). To remove, use a knife to loosen the two edges without parchment paper, and lift out the bars using the parchment paper sling. Cut into 16 squares (a large serrated knife helps ensure clean edges).

As far as storage, I find these bars are best dried out a bit to retain chewiness. As I live in a dry climate, that means leave the bars out for a while before putting them in an airtight container. Also in the spirit of this, I find it’s best to err on cooking the bars more, rather than less.

even lower sugar pecan bars: I’ve also tested this recipe with only 20g of brown sugar in the filling. It produces bars with a nice, muted sweetness. However, in the end the chewier consistency and glossier, deeper brown colour of the 40g sugar version won out. If you try a 20g brown sugar version, just be very careful about after you scoop the nuts out overtop of the crust: be sure to distribute the remaining syrup in the saucepan as evenly as you can over the entire surface area of the bars.

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.

2021 blog year in review

The blog year in review post is my chance to revisit some of my favourite posts from the year. As with last year, I’ve devised a series of 10 categories from which to highlight my favourite recipes in self-congratulatory fashion. (We’ll start with breakfast, then several courses of dessert, and maybe something savoury too, if we must.)

Everything granola is named in the style of everything bagel spice – as in, I didn’t limit to one or two nuts or fruits to make a defined flavour combo by which I would describe the granola. It’s all the generic granola ingredients in one: a few nuts and seeds, several dried fruits and a bit of ground spice. In other words, I could probably just call it granola. But then the title would be too short. So everything granola it is. Besides, I think the name also implies it is very open to substitutions galore: whatever nut/seed/chunky thing you have around, along with whatever assortment of dried fruit.

This recipe originates, though now heavily modified, from an Alton Brown granola recipe that I first started making in elementary school. Over the years I mostly stopped stirring (to get granola clumps!) and cut the sweetener aside from what is needed to bind the granola. More recently, I also started adding egg white, a trick from Deb Perelman, for extra binding. In other words, this recipe is a mildly sweet, but standard, clumpy granola. But still, let’s call it everything granola, okay?

For a more extravagant breakfasts, try the blueberry brunsviger.

Most years, to celebrate the questionable occasion of the blog becoming a year older, I make a rhubarb cake of some sort. The whole rhubarb theme was poorly chosen as my blog was started in midsummer at which point rhubarb season is mostly over… but what can I do now about my own thoughtlessness 7.5 years ago… Anyways, given I made this cake to commemorate 7 years of blogging, I am biased towards including it. But more than that, I also really loved it! Fraisier has been on my to-do to-attempt list for a long time. It’s always looked intimidatingly finicky to me, but my main fear (that I would not be able to unmold the cake) went unfounded and I found the cake came together quite tidily.

For this take on a fraisier, I infused the filling with lemon verbena and thyme and piled the centre with roasted rhubarb. It is a fantastic classic cake format for summer as it highlights the fruit makes for a moist and light cake. (I am very partial cakes that are only 25% solid cake.)

Chestnuts have a relatively mild flavour so the best way for it to come through is to use a lot of chestnut. I made this cheesecake following that approach, with a good portion of the cheese substituted for chestnut puree. And it makes the loveliest cheesecake – super smooth, soft and obviously chestnut-y. Together with caramelized persimmons, it’s a mellow and autumnal flavour combination. (I liked the caramelized persimmons so much that I ended up making them again for this houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons.)

There is nothing particularly exciting or creative about this – it’s really just a peach and almond tart. But it is a a classic combination for a reason and in the end I had to choose this as my favourite. I think it’s the small details here and there which made me love it. First, the tart shell, a pasta frolla, which I made with 100% white flour… I will keep making whole wheat tart crusts, because they are still quite lovely!, but every once and while the blankness of white flour, the complete lack of bitterness, and the way it browns golden and goes so seamlessly with sweetness… That and almond cream bolstered with amaretto (one of my favourite flavours), and topped with plenty of peaches and toasted almonds. It is not very exciting, but it is very delicious.

Runner ups: saffron poached pear & pistachio tart and burnt miso & star anise banana tarte tatin.

I generally find grapefruit a bit trickier to bake with than its lemon, orange or lime counterparts, in great part because grapefruit zest doesn’t have a very strong flavour. I thus have a sordid history of making grapefruit desserts which I think taste like grapefruit – maybe-ish – due to a suggestible and overactive imagination, but really which don’t.

The theme of this tart was grapefruit and I was determined for it to taste like grapefruit. That meant a grapefruit cream, grapefruit jelly domes, grapefruit posset domes, and candied grapefruit peel. And, thankfully (because I don’t know where I could go from here) it tastes undeniably like grapefruit. It’s quite rich and creamy and refreshing and a bit bitter.

Runner up: tarragon and lime posset tarts with black and blueberries.

Black forest cake is a family favourite and retro classic – cherries, chocolate and plenty of kirsch. Anything black forest-themed tends to be very well received by my grandparents and so were these. They’re very straightforwards but surprisingly good: cherry kirsch compote, chocolate kirsch pastry cream, thick swirl of whipped cream which you could add a bit of kirsch to as well (enough kirsch yet?) and a cherry on top.

It was difficult deciding – runner ups are the ispahan cream puff or caramelized banana & houjicha cream puff, depending on if you’re feeling summery or not.

This ice cream is rather like a mint chocolate chip ice cream, but that does gloss over some differences. First, the stracciatella part, where melted chocolate is drizzled into the ice cream while it is being churned (or where egg is drizzled into broth and cooks up in strands – either way). This creates thin, snappy shards of chocolate which melt quickly in the mouth. Texturally it’s an improvement over chocolate chunks or chips which harden into pebbles in the chill of the freezer, and flavourwise, the quick melting means that the flavour of the chocolate is tasted sooner and more accessibly than chunks. I also love the background fruitiness from the cherries. Adapted from a Stella Parks recipe, the base is thick with roasted pureed cherries. Roasting the fruit before pureeing it into the ice cream removes excess water and prevents the ice cream from becoming crystalline. Some fruit lose their oomph when roasted, but not so much cherries which stay fruity, sweet and tart.

For some reason I love hot cross buns. And different hot cross bun variations are a way to extend my hot cross bun love into multiple batches of hot cross buns. This particular batch was inspired by saffron-infused Lucia buns: a saffron and cardamom dough studded with raisins and candied orange peel, and topped with a pastry cream cross. These buns also took a few batches over a couple years to get them where I wanted – slightly less aggressive use of cardamom, more and more fruit, reworking of the pastry cream. I honestly thought these buns would end up boring, but they’re actually so pleasant between the soft dough, spices, fruit and cream.

This is one of my favourite savoury pastries that I’ve had and I was chuffed that I was able to make an approximation of it for myself. Puff pastry, salty cheese filling, split and folded over boiled eggs and a sharp green harissa. I love it for snack or lunch or picnics and still warm or reheated or even cold. It’s hard to mess up when it lovably hits all the boxes flavourwise (salt fat acid heat).

Since this list is being made around the holiday season, of course we need a festive category. Last year it had to go to fruitcake, but this year the cookie box gets it. At this point the holiday cookie box has weathered a few different winter holidays – left in the lunchroom, brought a New Year’s party, packed up into bags or mailed, scaled down for an at-home covid christmas. Regardless, I usually design the cookie box around a couple of constraints. First, I usually go for dry and crumbly type cookies (i.e. the shortbread as opposed to the chewy cookies) that won’t dry out and go stale in a day, letting them be stored for longer. Choosing cookies of similar moisture content also allows different types of cookies to be stored together – if you include a moist cookie, it will dry out while surrounding crisp cookies will soften. It’s also best to keep to more robust cookies which can handle being in the mail.

As well, there is also a convenience to a cookie box! (Relative convenience, let’s say.) When you stick to the types of cookies that don’t dry out, cookie box baking can take place over an extended period of time, letting you get started early. Besides, as each recipe doesn’t take too much time, I find I can make one every weeknight evening which spreads out the work to be more manageable. I also find cookies are fairly easy to scale down to smaller batches (ex. to 1/2 stick butter), meaning it’s not too much of an ingredient investment to make multiple types for variety or experiment a bit. Store all the cookies separately and then put them together for gifting or bringing!


Say you care about opinions other than solely mine (but why would you?), I also have the top 10 by page view (and I like all of these too!):

  1. tiramisu tres leches
  2. strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars
  3. chestnut cheesecake with caramelized persimmons
  4. lemon verbena & rhubarb fraisier
  5. black sesame & persimmon paris-brest
  6. black forest cream puffs
  7. orange fennel almond biscotti
  8. rhubarb & ginger eton mess
  9. ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake
  10. chocolate prune & whiskey ice cream

2021 was also a second year of pandemic no one hoped we would have, a vaccine equity catastrophe, an onslaught of natural disasters, humanitarian crises, tragic discoveries, a disregarded opioid epidemic, bigotry resurgences AND also the birth of mutual aid funds and grassroots organizing efforts to support communities. Wishing everyone a better year in 2022, and beyond just the wishing, remember we have the opportunity to make things better, too.

See also the 2020, 2019, 2016 and 2015 blog years in review.

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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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
  • Print

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.

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream

Rum raisin ice cream should be something that I adore (rum + cream + dried fruit + grandpa vibes) but I’ve always had a less than stellar impression of it. Probably because I’d only ever tried a supermarket version of it once: super sweet, slightly freezer-burned. and rum-flavoured as opposed to actual rum. Homemade rum raisin, on the other hand, is properly alcoholic, and all that I imagined it to be and more!

(Maybe I would have liked the supermarket one too if it wasn’t too freezer-burned…)

chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream

For this take on a rum raisin ice cream, I made an ice cream base thick with pureed chestnuts – it only adds to the coziness and goes well with the rum. Just before churning, stir in rum-plumped raisins and any excess rum. Soaking the raisins in rum not only rehydrates any particularly desiccated ones, but also offsets the sweetness and keeps them soft and chewy even when frozen. And finally, thanks to the alcohol content of the ice cream base, it stays semi-scoopable even when made with lower sugar content.

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

  • Servings: about 3 cups ice cream base
  • Print

Adapted from Saveur’s rum raisin ice cream.

  • 75g (1/2 cup) raisins
  • 105g (1/2 cup) dark rum
  • 300g (1 1/4 cup) whole milk
  • 5cm length of vanilla bean
  • 150g (1 cup) peeled roasted chestnuts
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25g granulated sugar (or use 50-70g for a more standard sweetness)
  • 240g (1 cup) heavy cream

Combine the raisins and dark rum in a small jar or covered dish and set aside overnight or up to a couple days.

Place the milk in a medium-small saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds, adding both the seeds and pod to the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally and add the chestnuts. Partially cover and allow to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until the chestnuts are tender. Remove from the heat.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chestnuts and set aside. Discard the vanilla pod.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Return the milk to the stovetop and heat until it begins to steam. Slowly pour into the egg yolks while whisking constantly to temper them. Return the custard to the saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Cook until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn in it, or the temperature reaches 160-180F.

Remove from the heat and add the chestnuts. If you have an immersion blender, transfer to a tall glass measuring cup or the cup that comes with the blender and puree until smooth. Otherwise, transfer the mixture to the bowl or a stand blender or food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. The mixture will appear thick and silky. Chill completely.

When ready to make the ice cream, stir in the cold heavy cream, the rum-soaked raisins, and all the excess rum. Transfer the ice cream base to an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: I don’t personally recommend it, but if you prefer the alcohol cooked off: put the raisins and rum in a microwave proof container, cover with plastic leaving a small gap for steam to escape, and microwave for about 1 minute or until it is bubbling.

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
  • Print

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.