candied lemon, pistachio and rosemary biscotti

candied lemon, pistachio and rosemary biscotti – bright, herbaceous and good with black tea. plus how i seem to have lost the art of listening to entire albums, but Elisapie Isaac’s Ballad of the Runaway Girl reminded me to give it a try again (and I gush plenty because I adore the album)

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I genuinely used to buy CDs. I would try to listen to as many songs as I could online first to make sure I was ready to lay down twenty dollars, but once you have a CD, you have all of it – every song. And so you listen to them all.

It’s gotten rarer for me to listen to a whole album now. Often I will like a couple of songs from an album, but only have the vaguest impression of the rest, if any at all. It’s probably in part a sign of the times, along with a whole other slate of changes that streaming has elicited in the music industry. As songs become more standalone, albums have reportedly become long compilations of singles as opposed to a unit meant to be listened to all at once. Or maybe it’s more so my reduced attention span which demands immediate catchiness! that is keeping me from lasting through an album (music has been changing to suit this as well!).

It takes a bit of patience for a whole album listen. Not on shuffle, not mixed into playlists with other songs – often best while going on a walk. When you listen to a whole album, you’re also giving yourself time to get to know it. I find it’s a particular few songs that stick out at first, but on subsequent listens, the quieter, less immediately catchy ones stand out, and later still, the wallflowers.

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apple sauce bundt with browned butter cream & tamarind caramelized apples

a super lazy applesauce (no peeling or coring!) and a simple spiced apple sauce bundt cake to use it in

applesauce bundt cakeapplesauce bundt cakeapplesauce bundt cake

There are particular blocks of the city that are never a bore to walk past. It’s been a bit hard to pinpoint what I find myself drawn to – I used to think it was age. Look at these pretty old buildings! I once texted to my friend, who, studying abroad in England sent me back a picture of some genuinely very old buildings… and I realized I wasn’t really into buildings solely for their vintage, nor for decay or collapse.

Rather, I think it’s a matter of accruement (a word I selected in part because of how satisfying and pretentious it is to say), or well, something along those lines. The cityscapes I find the most interesting are usually lively and cluttered. I tend not to notice the overhangs and alcoves and makeshift structures until I do. And I tend not to appreciate them for what they are until I do: the edges of the superimposed renditions collapsed into the building’s current form. In a literal sense, such as of new businesses, coexisting with old signs from past restaurants and shops that swing overhead, the front of the building itself engraved with its previous late-19th-to-mid-20th century purpose.

I love catching sight of those pieces of unintentional design – anachronistic architectural details, patchwork fences, sprawling greenery, unorthodox uses of furniture, intricate makeshift shelving, faded paints and old shadows. It’s the ways that some buildings are shaped by many small changes by many people all piled together. This sort of thing does often comes with some wear and tear, which can speak of neglect, or can speak of what wore it – and it’s the latter that is fun to focus on.

This all got me thinking about what makes me attached to recipes. Like those inherited hand-written copies with notes in the margins, ingredients added, quantities adjusted, in overlying scrawls in pencil and pen and blue and black ink – though I have very few of them. More often, it will be accruement that manifests as a series of more recent renditions, input from others and dramatic swings in concept. Things like this cake, which is pretty simple but also an accumulation of ideas and attempts bounced back and forth between my mum and I.

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olive oil panna cotta tart with figs

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

olive oil panna cotta tartolive oil panna cotta tart

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

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

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persimmon, walnut and browned butter roll cake

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

persimmon & walnut roll cake with browned butter creampersimmon & walnut roll cake with browned butter cream

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

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white peach, strawberry & pistachio mousse cake

strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes

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

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

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roasted rhubarb and strawberry layer cake – 5th blogiversary cake!

tentimestea turns 5: a birthday cake, obligatory autobiographical ramblings (which I enjoy far too much) and tips on making a lower sugar layer cake with moderated sweetness

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As with every most blogiversaries, another year another cake – as well as uber-sentimental musings (replete with pretentious writing as usual) on how much I love baking and some more soul searching to try to figure out how to balance blogging with other priorities.

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strawberry, rose & mint roll cake

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I have lamented before that roll cakes really ought to have some colour contrast between the cake and the filling – because otherwise, what’s the point of going through the trouble of rolling them up together?

This cake is about as contrasting as you can get – shades of complementary colours juxtaposed against each other (also a muted version of the colour palette of Coraline’s room – in the book). The cake is tinted an earthy green from plenty of pureed mint, and filled with a pink strawberry mousse.

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week-end citron (lemon loaf 3.0)

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

When I was younger, we would purchase this lemon loaf cake from Première Moisson in Montreal. I thought it was so special and regal, packed in a stiff transparent plastic box on a gold piece of cardboard. And packed was key: the cake barely fit in the box, and each time you slide it out, the top of the cake streaked the plastic with glaze. Those 1800 cubic centimetres contained satisfaction for days.

The cake had two presentations — first it would be the crisp morning coating of a crackly sugar glaze, and later, after a day or so, the glaze would be softened and the crown of each slice would be moist and saturated with lemon and sugary glaze.

I’ve been trying to make a lemon cake that lived up to my excessively detailed and visceral memories for a long time. That goal had vaguely concluded with the previous lemon loaf cake–I wasn’t fully satisfied, but I had brought that cake recipe as far as I could.

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

I was fairly certain that was to be that and any advances in lemon cake-making remained dormant until the last time my grandparents were in Montreal. They brought back a shrink wrapped loaf cake, and while it wasn’t glazed, this cake, labelled as “week-end citron”, had the tender and fine crumb that I remembered.

But best of all, the name was also familiar: the “week-end cake” recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi from which I had previously adapted this chestnut and prune version. In fact, the crumb and richness was quite similar to the cake I had made. A look at the ingredients also seemed to confirm that, as both cakes also contain heavy cream and rum.

I set about making a lemon adaptation of the week-end cake, taking some of the core principles that guided my previous favourite lemon cake. Based on Smitten Kitchen’s lemon cake, we use two glazes: some lemon juice squeezed over just out of the oven followed by a set sugary glaze once the cake is cool. But let’s take some measures to control the sweetness–just using straight lemon juice for the first soaking and cutting sugar from the cake. This is key so we can completely coat the whole cake (and I mean every spot of the top and sides) in a doughnut-like thin sugary crust without it being overwhelming (no thick drizzle please!). In the previous rendition, cuts to the sugar budget compromised texture and led to a bit of an anemic crust. This cake cooks long enough in the oven to end up with a golden brown crust, and has a rather lovely texture that is less dependent on proper butter-sugar aeration.

weekend citron
weekend citron
weekend citron

This cake is like I remember in the important ways. The crumb is finer and denser, and straightforwardly rich and each slice is solid, not crumbly. The deeply browned crust peeking out from below an icing sugar glaze and the profile when you cut a slice from the middle–of a tall, proud craggy crest of lemon yellow cake–is just what I remember.

This cake is also not like I remember; in fact, I think it’s a wee bit better in some of the even more important ways such as being very, very lemony.

weekend citron
weekend citron

I’ve made this cake upwards of seven times now (it is a good one to bring to the lab). And each time it has been actually rather excellent. Of course, all the credit goes towards the reliable base cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan, because in fact, this cake is far easier and reliable than the previous one. With melted butter, there’s no need for softening nor emergency measures when your perfect room-temperature butter gets wrecked by those dastardly fridge-temperature eggs. Nor do you need to actually put in the work of creaming butter (which I know really does pay off, yet I am never able to convince my right limb of that in the moment).

Now this earlier lemon cake still has plenty of merit, just of a different sort. When your butter and eggs are at the right temperature and properly creamed, the crumb is softer, lighter and fluffier. It’s not worse at all (and probably better to some), it’s just that this cake is the one that I’ve been looking for all this time.

Well. I’ll try not to overstate and exaggerate too much. It’s a very, very small thing, but it’s still a really lovely cake.

weekend citron

week-end citron

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s brown butter and vanilla weekend cake in Baking Chez Moi.

cake

  • 238 g a.p. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp b.p.
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 150 g sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp dark rum (optional)
  • 80 mL heavy cream
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled

to glaze

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g (1 c) icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with a parchment paper sling and butter the exposed sides of the pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until very aromatic. Add the eggs and whisk thoroughly to combine, then whisk in the vanilla extract, rum and finally the heavy cream. Mix in the flour mixture with a spatula, and finally add the butter in 2-3 additions, folding in the butter completely each time. Scrape the batter, which is beautifully ribbony, into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. Remove from the oven, prick lightly all over with a wooden skewer, and drizzle overtop juice of half a lemon. Let cool around 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the second glaze, I recommend doing this the day you’re planning to serve the cake. Often I will bake the cake the night before, and then finish glazing next morning so it is freshly set before bringing it as a gift.

For the sugar glaze, whisk together the icing sugar with enough lemon juice (usually a bit less than half a lemon, depending on the size of your lemons) to make a glaze that is thin and drizzly (slightly translucent), but still thick enough to cling to the cake. Place the cooled cake on a wire rack over a pan. Pour the glaze over the cake, using a large offset spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the sides of the cake until it is completely coated.

Update notes: photographs updated Apr 2021.

tiramisu cake

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This cake is tiramisu rendered in a slightly more celebratory form. If the black forest cake is what I make for my family, this tiramisu cake is what I make for my friend who adores tiramisu.

My university cafeteria had two coffee shops – the omnipresent Tim Hortons (obviously) and then the “fancy one.” I’ve completely forgotten the name now but it felt rather out of place at the time – serving belgian waffles, and carrot and tiramisu cake slices, alongside considerably more price-y espresso-based drinks. On occasion, when we had a long break between classes, we would treat ourselves to tea. The food on the other hand was a bit too much a drain on the wallet to try.

This cake is well, superficially, modelled after the tiramisu cake in the shop case – as we never ended up trying it, I’m solely working off of its exterior.

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