Friday, February 25, 2011

A New Kind of Comfort Baking

My comfort "go to" recipes have always been very sweet - chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, quick cupcakes, and anything else similar. It's never been bread. Ever. Just too difficult - whether it takes too much time or involves too much effort. On a personal preference note - I am not a big bread eater. Don't get me wrong, I love sandwiches and good quality bread, but a loaf can sit in my freezer for months. Months!

With the recent turn of cold weather I have been suffering through, I've been craving more substantial baked goods, especially those that are not super-sweet. A couple of weeks ago I hosted my first ever Chinese dinner - it was more like a banquet really (I can only cook for 4...or 10 - nothing in between!) and I served steamed lotus paste and red bean buns. These are simple sweet bread with a mildly sweet filling. It is almost savory in nature - but for a Chinese spoon, it's extremely comforting. It brings me back to my childhood - eating dinners in loud restaurants and being served red bean, lotus and hot tapioca desserts at the end. I'm starting to go on a tangent here - but I'll post later with more pictures from the Chinese dinner.

Anyway, I made a recipe from the latest Martha Stewart Living - a Chocolate Swirl "Coffee Cake" - it's more like a loaf/cake...or for those who visit Solly's in Vancouver - it's like a fluffier chocolate babka! (which is my favourite item there) A sweet yeast dough is swirled with a bittersweet chocolate filling, topped with a rough streusel and then drizzled with icing. And amazingly, it wasn't that sweet.

It was however - a lot of work! Breads are definitely a weekend project. Start the dough, take the dog for a nice long walk and then prepare for the second rise (and filling). Wait for the second rise while watching some TV or doing some light cleaning and then pop your creation into the oven. Chill and enjoy the amazing smells that will fill the space. The worst is when it is done - and you still have to wait! I'm not sure what it is about freshly baked bread, but you definitely have to wait for it to cool. I believe it may have something to do with the yeast finishing the reactions and/or the crust and bread to settle. Anyway - a very  long wait later, I finally got to take a bite of this delicious bread/cake - and wow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I have 27 Valentines at work!

There aren't a lot of ladies at my workplace - typical of the industry I suppose, and I would like to think I play a role in bringing the few of us together every once in a while. A coworker suggested the company "commission" some Valentine themed cookies - and I really couldn't think of a better way of giving us gals a nice treat for putting up with the stinky boys.

Unfortunately I ran into a problem I've had in the last few years - I do not have a large heart-shaped cookie cutter. In the past, I've used a plastic stencil to trace & cut out shapes - but this year I decided to freehand the hearts. I think it added some originality and personality to the hearts - no two were alike! (just like in real life, yuk yuk yuk) The recipe was a basic sugar cookie dough and then decorated with pink & white royal icing and Smarties. Each cookie was also personalized with their name written in chocolate. Each cookie was also gifted with some small chocolates or gummies - what a delicious day!

Some photographic evidence...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taste Teaser

The chocolate broke easily as my teeth sank into the dark brown coating. It made a satisfying snap as it crumbled into the marshmallow and then onto my tongue. Although the coating was not perfectly tempered, the taste was in no way compromised - it was sweet and rich without being overwhelming. As I inhaled, I could taste peanut butter and graham cracker hit the back of my throat. The taste of nostalgia wafted through my nose as I breathed in those familiar smells of my childhood and when cookies weren't so complicated. It crumbled with no resistance, crumbling in a buttery chocolate mess in my molars. I gently separated a cloud of marshmallow from the cookie - how can something be light and rich at the same time? It was like biting into a cloud, a silky cloud of spun sugar that transported me into confectionery heaven.

 Just a tease of the post to follow....