Category Archives: Cakes

Chocolate & Praline Madeleines, Praline Powder

Have you ever thought about learning another language?

I think about it all the time — especially when I translate recipes from other languages.

One of the weirdest things about traveling around Europe was not being able to effectively communicate with local people in a local language — I definitely felt more than a little ignorant (and inconsiderate) at times.

Especially at hostels, when I’d inevitably get something like: “But… you’re Canadian — don’t you speak French?”

Well, actually, no.

Vancouver is kind of a weird place, see — a lot of people I know (myself included) opted out of French as soon as we hit high school in order to take an Asian language, like Mandarin or Japanese, instead.

When you live right across the ocean from Asia, it just seems to make more sense.

But now I’ve been thinking of picking up another language. Russian, German, Dutch, and Italian all seem really interesting, and it’d be nice to be able to do more than buy train tickets and coffee next time I travel to Europe!

Anyways, more madeleines today — another recipe from the cute little book I picked up in Milan.

These are different than other madeleines I’ve made before — they actually taste better at room temperature and keep well overnight!

You have to make your own praline powder for this recipe, but whooomigawd — praline powder? Gimme Gimme Gimme! Yes, please!

I like to think of it as “hazelnut crack” because it’s addictive and good on everything.

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Passion Fruit Cupcakes

Before I went to pastry school, I’d never even had passion fruit — it had always kind of intimidated me, to be honest!

I’ll fully admit that this is sort of sad behaviour (especially for someone who considers herself an adventurous foodie…!) but if I pick up a foreign fruit or veggie in the grocery store and I can’t see an obvious way to eat it (like: oh, just slice it and eat it raw… or, clearly you cut away the skin first!) then I tend to put it down and skulk away.

For some reason, I think it’s embarrassing to have to ask someone else, “How do you eat this?” and then I’ve always often forgotten all about it by the time I get home.

Call it culinary pride, or what have you — or maybe lack of culinary confidence! Yeah, that would be more accurate.

Anyways, passion fruit is amazing. I should have gotten around to eating it way earlier in life.

It’s like the lemon of the jungle — very tart and acidic, while also having a very complex and fruity flavour — and, in case you’re wondering, you just crack ’em open and eat the insides (including the seeds)!

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Tales of Awesome European Food Adventures, Salted Caramel Madeleines

She lives!

I’m back from the abyss — swallowed by the real world for almost 10 whole weeks!

I return with tales of triumph, sugar, and adventure.

Let’s get my timeline straightened out — first, I vanished in order to concentrate on finishing up pastry school and exams. Thankfully, my dedication and efforts paid off, because I graduated at the top of my class. It was pretty great. I was pretty proud. My mom got all misty-eyed. It was a milestone.

So, what did I do next? I did what any overburdened graduate would do — take off, of course!

My partner and I purchased one-way tickets to Russia (he’s got family over there) and figured we’d stay across the ocean for as long as possible (or at least until our life savings ran out).

It was a once-in-a-lifetime gallivant around the old continent — 24 cities in 12 different countries — we lived out of our backpacks, stayed in budget hostels, and indulged only in sight-seeing and dessert.

We landed in St. Petersburg via Moscow and New York — believe it or not, it’s cheaper to fly to Europe from anywhere but Canada — spend a few days there, then headed west and south, through Stockholm, and Copenhagen, and then into Germany.

After seeing Berlin, I insisted that we travel the scenic route though Prague and to get to the one, the only, Sacher Hotel in Vienna. That was a definite high point for me, as a pastry person, to actually eat one the annals of foodie history.

Passing through Vienna was convenient anyways, because, from there, we caught a sleeper train into Venice. From Venice we skipped through Pisa (best pasta of my life, people), then down to Rome.

Oh, Rome, you captured my heart — if you don’t mind the big city noise, then everywhere you walk is beautiful. Ruins here, vespas there, gelato everrrywhere!

Words don’t even describe how good gelato is in Italy. Nothing I’ve ever had in Vancouver even compares.

Alas, we couldn’t stay in Rome forever, so we took a train up to Milan, saw the sights, then traveled all day on local trains to get to Nice — and, again, Nice was amazing!

It was like every time we arrived in a new place, it was even more fascinating and more beautiful than we expected it to be — the blue Mediterrean, the historic center of town, the 25 minute train ride to Monaco… oh, and nevermind gelato — Nice had it’s own award-winning resident ice cream maker to boast about!

From Nice and Monaco we booked it through Marseilles and into Barcelona, where we spent three nights and still didn’t even see half of what there was to see and do there. Barcelona, unlike other European cities, doesn’t have a condensed core that you can walk around and absorb in a day.

Next time I go to Spain, I spend at least two weeks in Barcelona. Minimum.

After Barcelona came Paris — the hub of which so much of my discipline revolves around. All the beautiful food was so overwhelming, though, so I just decided to concentrate on sampling one particular treat: macaron!

I swooned when I saw Ladurée. I squealed like a kid when I saw Pierre HerméI sampled the goods from Lenôtre and Fauchon, too. The French had flavours that were especially creative, too — peach with apricot and saffron, cherry blossom, olive oil and mandarin… heaven!

We left Paris behind (but packed a few macaron to go!) and headed into Brussels.

It was pouring rain when we arrived, so my partner and I plopped ourselves down in the world famous Delirium Cafe and proceeded to have the best beer of our lives. We drank, we chatted with fellow travelers, some new friends treated us to even more beer, we washed it all down with fries and waffles, and I woke up with a massive hangover.

Totally worth it.

From Brussels, we went to Bruges, then Amsterdam, and Mannhiem. We flew out of Frankfurt and landed in Anchorage, Alaska. The last few days of travel seemed to speed by ever faster than before, and, before I knew it, I was back in Vancouver.

I’ve been taking it easy over the last week, just to get my groove back and figure out what to do from here — getting a new job right away would seem like the obvious thing to do at this point, but I’ve got something better in the works.

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Upside-Down Hot Chocolate Pudding

First, a disclaimer: this isn’t really pudding (at least not in the “North American” sense).

This is a British-style pudding — the rich, gooey, and cakey kind.

The way you make this pudding is a little unusual — it starts as a stiff, doughy batter, then gets covered in a thick layer of loose sugar and cocoa powder, then drizzled with fresh coffee, and, as it bakes, it turns “upside-down”!

The moist cake bakes and puffs up and oozes with chocolate, while the bottom remains a sticky chocolate sauce.

It’s been ages since I’ve made this treat at home, but I decide that this Upside-Down Hot Chocolate Pudding was going to be the last dessert I would make for lunch service at school.

How bitter-sweet it was!

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Christmas Recipe Round-Up

I have to confess — while recipe round-ups are not normally my style, I felt like there was too much of a gap between my stöllen and my next post, so a wee bit of filler was in order.

Coming soon: cookies and big news!

So, I’m currently bogged down with cramming and exams — that just means that some of the delicious treats I made last Christmas get an extra minute in the spotlight — like these rich and velvety Mucho Mocha Shortbread.

That’s win-win, right?

Especially because I think some of these creative recipes, like Mandarin Cupcakes with Clove Buttercream, definitely deserve a second look.

I did crazy, mad, frantic, enthusiastic baking during my first few weeks of blogging, and it just so happened to be over the holidays!

xmastime08

It’s bitter-sweet to think about the lovely Pear & Cranberry Cake with Orange Buttermilk Glaze that hardly anyone ever looked at, simply because I hadn’t yet learned about networking, making fellow blogging buddies, or the glories of photographing with natural light.

Sad, but true!

I mean, these Cranberry-Pecan Sandies are the type of cookie that my coworkers pestered me to make again over and over (I just indulged them this last weekend — and they’re good as ever), but I just didn’t know how to make them shine in front of a camera.

Especially since I didn’t know anything about food styling or adding props to photos either.

The gold star embossed tissue paper behind these Toasted Coconut Icebox Cookies was about as complicated and intricate as it got with me.

Maybe a sad piece of shriveled holly bush managed to sneak itself into the frame when I photographed these Chocolate-Dipped Marzipan Cookies — but adding props like that didn’t happen very often!

Behold — a whole dish, napkin, and spoon! I had started to branch out!

A bowl full of nutmeg-dusted Cranberry Syllabub aside, the last year has been a serious learning experience for me — there’s more to making a blog work, to making food work, making writing work, than just churning out recipe after recipe.

You’ve gotta have a story to tell, a life to share, and a love of food to impart to the world!

This funny-looking Rum-Spiked Brownie Bits with Candy Cane Frosting has a story to tell, too — one about how half my coworkers wouldn’t touch these chocolately morsels because of the sluggish, speckled grey frosting on top.

That is, until someone had the guts to try this odd-coloured creation and declared it delicious!

Sometimes food blogging can be made pretty and easy and neat, like these Perfect Gingersnaps, and sometimes it’s so much stress that you want to tear all your hair out and sleep for an entire month!

I know that in my last post I said I fear the impending holiday rush — and, well, it’s still true.

But all your kind comments (and some like-minded facebook statuses from my friends) made me realize that it’s best to meet things head on!

Here’s to the holidays — the stress, the joy, the festive food, the amazing baked treats — and keeping your head screwed on as tightly as possible from now until the new year!

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Stöllen

Oh, god — December. Just get out already!

Now, normally I try to write about something light-hearted or historical for my blog, but lately I’ve just been sitting at my computer, anxiously blanking out at the screen, or wasting my time on memebase sites.

While most people wait in anticipation of December and relish in the Christmas season, I fear it.

Like, literally fear it.

Worrying about the Christmas season keeps me up at night — December offers me nothing in terms of relaxation and happiness.

Time off from work? Not with two jobs!

Time off from school? Not unless you count the two weeks off that I will spend working!

Buying presents that I seriously don’t want to buy and getting stuff that I seriously don’t need? Not constructive — I’d rather keep my money for bills and have my friends and family do the same!

Family dinners? Seriously awkwaaaaard.

Not to mention that there’s almost always snarkiness or fighting that breaks out.

My ideal December would involve a month of hibernation and intermittent waking periods for baking cookies and drinking wine and eating stöllen. For reals.

Anyways, enough complaining. I try not to complain, because, seriously — all I’ve got are first world problems.

If this is a season to love and be thankful, then I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

Like rum spiked nog and stöllen!

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