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.

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
  • Print

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.

houjicha, kinako & peach tiramisu

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

Maybe I have developed a bit of a tiramisu obsession. I love the flavours of coffee and marsala, but also the format of a well saturated cake component with plenty of thick cream – and it lends itself well to other flavour profiles too. Which means I can make even more tiramisu!

And I think this one is particularly lovely – it has both the toasty flavours of houjicha (roasted green tea) and kinako (roasted soybean powder), layered with fresh peaches and a mascarpone cream.

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

I put this together much like one would a regular tiramisu. Begin with a layer of ladyfingers soaked in houjicha – I think it’s a great substitute as it has the body of coffee, but with a gentler tea flavour. After that, scatter a layer of diced peaches and cover it all with a marscarpone-based cream. Finish with kinako, which is often served heavily dusted over different varieties of wagashi, generously sprinkled overtop.

I made mine in a 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval saute pan (area of about 577cm2) ; alternatively, you could make this in a 9×9″ square pan (area of about 480cm2 so layers will be a bit thicker). If you have a deeper dish for a double layered tiramisu, you may need to double the recipe.

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

houjicha, kinako & peach tiramisu

  • Servings: 23x32cm oval pan
  • Print

Mascarpone cream adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, with technique for cooking the eggs borrowed from Stella Park’s semifreddo.

mascarpone cream

  • 2 large eggs
  • 35g sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp marsala
  • 200g heavy cream, whipped

houjicha soak

  • 60mL hot water
  • 1 tbsp houjicha powder

assembly

  • 2 peaches, peeled and chopped into 1-1.5cm cubes (200g chopped peaches)
  • ~2 dozen homemade ladyfingers (see recipe below; you’ll need fewer if storebought larger ones)
  • kinako

special equipment

  • 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval pan – the closest standard pan is probably a 9×9″ square tin, or use whatever you have and spread the components thicker or thinner

for the mascarpone cream, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a glass bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, heating the eggs until they reach 165F. They’ll appear syrupy and quite warm to the touch.

Transfer the eggs to the bowl of a standmixer and whip until they become pale, opaque, more voluminous and cool, about 10-15 minutes on medium-high to high speed. The eggs should be thick enough to mound up when dropped from the whisk. (As it’s a smaller volume, it’s a bit tricky to really whip them up with the standmixer – they’ll likely only be doubled in volume instead of quadripled.)

Cream the mascarpone and marsala together in a large bowl. Fold in the whipped cream, then fold in the eggs. 

for the houjicha soak, whisk together the hot water and houjicha powder.

to assemble, have a 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval pan at hand. Dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the houjicha soak and use to cover the bottom of the pan. Break the cookies into pieces as needed to fill in all the gaps. Scatter the chopped peaches evenly over the cookies, then dollop the mascarpone overtop. Spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Place in the fridge for at least couple hours or overnight. Just before serving, dust the top generously with kinako.

savoiardi (ladyfingers) 

Makes about 3 dozen 9cm savoiardi. Adapted from As Easy as Apple Pie, with some adjustments to the method. 

  • 43g all-purpose flour
  • 20g potato starch or corn starch
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 50g sugar, divided
  • Pinch salt
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 7g milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 3/4 baking sheet with parchment paper (or use two regular half baking sheets).

Whisk together the flour and cornstarch in a small bowl. 

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standmixer along with half of the sugar (25g), salt and cream of tartar. Whip until stiff peaks are just formed (if anything, aim a little under – very firm, approach stiff). 

While the egg whites whip, in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and remaining 25g sugar with a handwhisk until very light, fluffy and doubled or tripled in volume. Whisk the milk into the egg yolks.

Whisk a dollop of the egg whites into the egg yolks to lighten, the fold in the remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula. Sift the flour mixture over top. Fold in gently until just combined.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1.2cm round tip (I used Wilton 2A – you can also pipe them bigger if you prefer!) and pipe strips of batter about 9cm long on the prepared trays. 

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool, then store in an airtight container.

spumoni cake (& guest post by the writographer)

spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake

I am a lazy person, writing is hard and I love to outsource the labour. So today I bring you a wonderful guest post from The Cousin (who also goes by The Writographer)!

Hi ten.times.tea readers, 

It is I, the Cousin (also known as The Writographer), and I have returned to this blog after a very long day. I just did the calculations, and I have not written a guest post in 1236 days (it will probably be more when you are reading this, but that is how long it has been when I write my original draft. Despite being given an open invitation to write for this blog whenever I feel like it, I have not taken up ten.times.tea’s offer. But now that it is summer, and my schedule is less busy than usual, I have decided to finally write a blog post. It took me a while to decide what to blog about; this blog’s author told me that I could write about anything, but I did not think she would appreciate another nerdy blog post about Star Wars (and to be fair, I have no yet watched episode IV). I did consider writing a blog post about Downton Abbey, specifically talking about the new movie coming up. I concluded that the readers of ten.times.tea come to this blog for baking and photography; not the nerdy cousin’s rants. 

One of the hardest parts about writing this guest post is that I have no idea what the recipe is, so whatever I say will have nothing to do with the baking. I can guess that the baking is probably with very little sugar, whole wheat flour, no chocolate and most likely will include rhubarb and some interesting spice combination. I am excited to see how accurate my prediction is. 

After much deliberation, I concluded that my post should have something to do with ten.times.tea, so either revolving around baking or photography. Since I am not much of a baker (the closest I get to baking cool creations is when I wash the dishes for ten.times.tea), I am sticking with photography topics. So this blog post is going to be about what I think are ideal photography conditions. Disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer. These are my opinions that I find lead to good photographs. 

  1. Good weather – While I say good weather, this depends on what you find is “good weather.” I enjoy it when the weather is slightly warm since I go for long walks when I take photos. If it is too warm then it’s annoying to stand in place for a long time to get the right shot. Also, since I normally take cityscapes and various street photography, I enjoy cloudy days since the sky looks more interesting, and then light/shadows are more interesting. 
  2. A fellow photographer/friend – Some people might prefer to take photos on their own, but I enjoy having someone with me. Whether it is someone also taking photos or just someone whose company you enjoy. This way you have someone to talk to and they might be able to point out good photo opportunities you missed.  
  3. Food/drinks – Since I normally go on long photography walks, it’s nice to get sustenance by stopping to get something to eat/drink. Or depending on the weather, it’s fun to get takeout drinks and walk around with them while you take photos. I’ve done both and I am not entirely sure which one is better. It probably depends on the area that you are in. 
  4. Extra batteries/enough memory – I realize that a lot of people now use smartphones to take photos, but I am thinking of actual cameras. I have had the misfortune to have forgotten to pack batteries and to run out of room on my memory card while on a photo walk. So before leaving to take photos, check if you have charged/extra batteries, enough room on the memory card, and take a test photo to make sure your camera is working. 
  5. A route/destination – Sometimes you are just out and suddenly see an opportunity to take a good photo. However, I find some of my best photographs have come from knowing where I want to go. While I always bring my camera (or at least my phone) when I go out, it is nice to have an idea of what you want to photograph. 

Bonus: natural lighting – this is more for ten.times.tea’s benefit since she can only bake when there is natural lighting. Since I usually photograph outside this does not apply to most of my photographs.

Okay, that is all I have for you today. Ten.times.tea, I hope your baking turned out well; I am sure that it did. I am looking forward to seeing what you have created. Goodbye!

spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake
spumoni cake

Thank you again The Cousin! I gave you a pretty difficult request by asking for a guest post without any idea of what recipe I would be posting – what a great idea to talk about photography! (If, reader of this blog post, you were not already aware, she is a brilliant photographer!). Oh and by the way, I am totally for it if you want to write about Star Wars again someday too…

If you want to see more of The Cousin’s hijinks, she has her own tag on tentimestea. You can also check out her blog, The Writographer, which features her photography and writing, or find her on Instagram!

My cousin has me pegged in terms of baking tendencies, but I decided to be unpredictable (ooh so wild!!) – this recipe has no whole wheat flour and quite a bit of chocolate. I was inspired by the flavour combination of spumoni, an Italian frozen dessert typically featuring pistachio, chocolate, and cherry: this is a fragrant pistachio cake, spotted with fresh cherries, marbled with cocoa powder and finished with a dark chocolate ganache. Due to the nuts nuts, the cake itself is very tender and moist. It also chills and eats very well from the fridge (likely as it’s an oil cake instead of butter) which is helpful in making it keep for a few days.

spumoni cake

spumoni cake

Cake adapted from The Milk Street Cookbook‘s pistachio cardamom cake (book edited by Christopher Kimball). Ganache from Ottolenghi Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.

cake

  • 85g pistachios
  • 100g almond flour
  • 130g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 120g greek yoghurt
  • 50g olive oil (if you like the taste – otherwise use a neutral vegetable oil)
  • 50g whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g cherries, pitted and halved

ganache

  • 53g very dark chocolate (90% cocoa), chopped
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 23g corn syrup
  • 55g water

cake

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a loaf tin and line with a parchment paper sling.

Place the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Process until the pistachios are finely ground.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, yoghurt, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter in two, transferring half to a second bowl. Beat the cocoa powder into one half of the batter. Add half the cherries to each half of the batter and mix. Put the chocolate batter into the prepared loaf tin, then top with the remaining half of the batter. Use an offset spatula, butter knife or spoon to dip down to the bottom of the pan and draw back up. Repeat a few times in the loaf tin to create some swirls.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed with a few moist crumbs clinging, or clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

ganache

To make the ganache, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a very small saucepan, put the sugar and corn syrup. Stir together until mixed. Heat over medium-low until the sugar, then increase the heat to bring the mixture to a bubble. Cook until the sugars caramelize and turn amber (about 7 minutes).

Remove from the heat and add the water carefully – it will splatter a bit. The sugar will seize and harden so return the saucepan to the heat to allow the sugar to redissolve and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat again and let cool one minute before pouring over the chocolate.

Let the chocolate sit for 5 minutes to begin to melt, then whisk until smooth. Pour over the cake while still warm.

Let the ganache set slightly, then top with cherries and chopped pistachios as desired.

Due to the moisture content of the cake, I recommend storing in the fridge. I find this cake eats very well cold from the fridge – and I slightly prefer eating it cold too!

spumoni cake

giant aged cheddar gougères with jam & butter

giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres

My love for these gougères makes me wonder at the power of form, shape and dimension in influencing our experience of eating… or to put my revelation in other words: bigger is better.

In the end they are what they are – gougères, choux pastry flecked with grated cheese – and the exact same recipe I’ve made multiple times before. But the larger size gives these puffs a generously rustic, scone-like presence. You can hold it in two hands and take what you think is a substantive bite only for it to collapse in a puff of air and bronzed batter and butter and toasted cheese. They are what I imagine scones would be if you rubbed in air in the place of cold butter.

giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres

I was inspired by the gougères at Pigeonhole where they’re served massive plus butter and jam. I haven’t had the chance to try theirs, but I was immediately fascinated when I mistook them for scones at first glance.

These gougères are delicious on their own (and that is generally how I end up eating them), but after trying them with some strawberry rhubarb jam I made last summer, I quite enjoyed that too! Another idea: apple butter?

The gougères are best the day of while they’ve retained a contrast between the crisp exterior and a custardy honeycombed interior. It’s not too hard to finish them on the first day though; after all, they are literally half, if not more, air and hence easily inhaled. (Or so I excuse myself after eating half the batch.)

giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres
giant cheddar gougeres

tips to keep your giant gougeres giant

I’ve made several batches of these, and while I still occasionally have a sinker or two, there are a couple of things I’ve picked up on to ensure maximal puff:

  1. Allow the batter to cool before mixing in the grated cheese to prevent it from melting before hitting the oven
  2. Resist the temptation to sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top – small gougères can handle it, but these ones tend to sink under even a little bit
  3. Proper batter consistency – sometimes if I’m making choux pastry where I want it to hold it’s shape, I’ll err on slightly stiffer batter. But I’ve found that if it’s too stiff, the pastry won’t puff as much, so in this case be sure to add the entire 2 large eggs as specified in the recipe.
giant cheddar gougeres

giant aged cheddar gougères with jam & butter

  • Servings: 6 gougères
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Adapted from Alain Ducasse with whole wheat flour, cheddar, herbs and now gigantic. They are big, but they go so fast that a double recipe could be warranted…

gougères

  • 60g water (1/4 cup)
  • 60g milk (1/4 cup)
  • 57g butter (1/2 a stick)
  • good pinch salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp picked thyme leaves (fresh) or other herbs if desired (optional)
  • 65g whole wheat flour (1/2 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g aged white cheddar, coarsely grated

to serve (optional!)

  • salted butter
  • jam of choice

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a saucepan, warm the water, milk, salt and butter until the butter is fully melted. 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 a bit before adding the eggs one 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 still quite hot, let cool until room temperature, and mix in the herbs, some ground black pepper, followed by the grated cheese. I’ve found that the gougères don’t puff as well if the cheese melts when mixed into the hot dough, so let it cool!

Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or no tip is fine too!). Pipe six mounds of pastry, around 3-4 tbsp in size (or about 6cm in diameter by 2-3cm in height) evenly spaced on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of coarse salt. While it’s tempting to sprinkle these with grated cheese, I’ve found it impedes their rise and causes a bit of collapse. Great for small gougères, not so great for giant gougères.

Bake for around 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown. If they’re browning relatively evenly, I would not bother rotating the tray. If they’re browning very unevenly, wait until a a brown crust is formed (at least around 25 minutes) before rotating them near the end to minimize risk of collapse.

As soon as you can handle them, cut a slit in the bottom of each puff to let the steam release and let cool on a wire rack.

Best still slightly warm on their own, or with salted butter and jam.

banana, thyme & chamomile ice cream

banana chamomile thyme ice cream
banana chamomile thyme ice cream

So I am 40% certain I don’t like bananas. It may be because of historic precedence – I’ve always considered myself not a banana person. I prefer to eat bananas when they’re still a bit green and when they are best described as tasting not very much like a banana at all.

But given some of my favourite recipes on the blog are this banana bread and this tart … I’ve begun to think maybe I could be a banana person after all, so long as banana is in combination with other flavours. (i.e. green curry paste/coconut and miso/star anise, respectively).

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tiramisu tres leches cake

tiramisu tres leches
tiramisu tres leches
tiramisu tres leches

This cake is, in essence, a sheetpan version of tiramisu with superabundant soak. It’s also a travesty and is neither really a tiramisu or a tres leches cake.

For the uninitiated, tres leches cake, or pastel de tres leches, is a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of canned and fresh milk. I love it – it is the dream remedy to all dry cake nightmares! Origins of this cake can be linked to multiple Latin American countries, European influence, expansion of dairy farming and sales of canned milk. It’s perhaps a familiar story of food emerging from resilient local ingenuity under colonialism (with a touch of capitalism and wartime food preservation).

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grapefruit cream tart (& stop asian hate)

grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart

It was over a year ago (can you believe we’ve been in the pandemic for over a year now?) when I wrote about a resurgence in anti-Asian sentiments, driven by racist pandemic rhetoric but symptomatic of underlying currents of white supremacy that continue to persist. I thought I was taking it seriously then, but when I go back and read what I wrote, that “anti-Chinese racism[…] is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt,” it rings weakly. At the time, I don’t think I really, really meant it. Not in a way that could imagine what happened in Atlanta was possible. Who would ever want to think such a thing could happen? – is my excuse.

I’ve been thinking more about why I kept harbouring hesitancy about the extent of anti-Asian racism, even when I’m a descendant of immigrants who paid an astronomical head tax, and other members of my extended family were interned. I think it’s because the model minority myth has been pervasive in my thinking – it posits that “Asians are pretty much white,” collapses the experiences of a diverse group into one, and suggests that the socioeconomic successes of some members means that structural barriers don’t exist. All of which are false. This is what I need to unlearn.

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grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes

grapefruit rose cardamom loaf cakes

I don’t know whether there is a grapefruit rose soap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flavour combination subconsciously entered my head via a soap. I mean, it sounds pretty soapy – in a good way. (I always find myself wishing that displays of fancy handcrafted soaps were edible. Oatmeal, honey and goat’s milk soap? I’d eat that for breakfast any day. Especially if it wasn’t actually soap.)

These soap bars cakes are also actually grapefruit cakes. I’ve tried making “grapefruit” cakes a couple times before following a similar approach as I would with a lemon cake – throw in some zest – and always ended up with a very plain cake. Because I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion and have an active imagination, I could taste grapefruit if I waved my hands and thought hard enough about it… but that doesn’t help others taste the flavour.

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