Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chocolate-vanilla pinwheels with crushed honey-roasted hazelnuts

This was my first time making pinwheel cookies. I started with a base recipe from the Joy of Cooking then added my own twists. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there is a learning curve with this type of cookie. Patience is a must. Also, reading instructions carefully? Important. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. After a few missteps along the way, I'm very happy with how these turned out. I picked the prettier ones for the photos, but they all taste great! (I've sampled plenty). This recipe makes a ton of cookies, about 5 dozen.


To prepare hazelnuts:
Start with 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts and a bowl of ice water. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda (the water will foam up). Add the hazelnuts and boil for about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts to the ice water. Use your fingers to rub off the skin. You can also roll the nuts between two dishcloths to help remove it. Toss the nuts with 2T honey, then place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 350F for 15 minutes. I did a taste test before and after roasting. The difference is unbelievable! Pulse the nuts into a crumb-like texture using a blender or food processor. 

Tip: If you're going to all the trouble, you may want to prepare a larger quantity and save the extra for other uses (e.g. appetizers, salads). 

To prepare dough:
In a stand mixer, beat 1 cup of softened, unsalted butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add 2 cups of white sugar and beat hard for several minutes. In a small mixing bowl, whisk 2 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla. Add this to the butter and sugar. In a large mixing bowl, sift together 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour and 2-1/2 tsp baking powder. Working in batches, add the flour. Ensure each addition is well-mixed, but avoid overbeating. Remove half of the dough from the stand mixer. Add 1/4 cup Ovaltine - or other powdered malt flavouring - to the remaining dough. Add additional flour as needed. Then, switch out the dough and add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the second batch. Add additional flour as needed. 

To prepare the dough rolls:
Chill the dough slightly in the refrigerator. On a floured surface, separately roll out the vanilla and chocolate dough until each is about 1/4" thick and roughly rectangular in shape. Trim the edges so you have perfect rectangles (I made a couple of rectangles in each set for easier handling). Layer one chocolate rectangle over a vanilla one and roll until about 2" thick in diameter. Repeat.

Prepare an egg wash by beating 2 eggs and 2T milk in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, coat each dough roll with the egg wash, then gently roll it in the toasted hazelnut crumbs. Tightly wrap the roll in foil and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. 

To prepare the cookies:
Unwrap the dough rolls, which should be firm. Using a sharp knife, slice them crosswise into cookies about 1/2" thick. Bake on a cool, greased pan at 400F for 8-10 minutes. Once done cooking, gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack for cooling. 

Cookies can be kept in a airtight container for up to two weeks or frozen for up to two months.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Spiced honeycomb

This is your PSL fix, in crunchy toffee form. I'd bought a bottle of Sonoma Syrup Co. pumpkin pie latte syrup this fall and have been struggling to use it up. I decided to try adding it to a honeycomb recipe. I also substituted some of the corn syrup for honey, since we still have some wedding favours left over.

 This recipe includes some steps that have to be done quickly, so make sure you have all your tools and ingredients close at hand. The foaming part is pretty fun and reminds me of science experiments :)


In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together 1 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup honey and 3T pumpkin pie latte syrup. Place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Stirring, bring the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling without stirring until it registers 300F on a candy thermometer. 

Remove from heat, whisk in 1-1/2 tsp of baking soda and whisk vigorously. The mixture will foam up quickly. Immediately pour the mixture onto a large piece of parchment paper. Let the honeycomb cool until hardened, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container, or a Ziploc bag. 

Your pot will be a sticky, hard mess but a soak in soapy hot water will dissolve the sugar and make it a cinch to clean.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Orange dream cookies

After a really hectic period at the office and a work trip, I had the loftiest of intentions to keep up with regular blog posts. Instead, I was laid up for a week and a half with a bad cold I caught on the flight home. An 800 km (!) detour to avoid an Atlantic storm meant even MORE time for my sniffling seat mate to spread his germs. 

But, Christmas gifts are now bought and wrapped, the first round of baking is done (and sampled, many many times over), and most of our Christmas cards are in the mail. Fingers crossed the remainder will make it under the wire!. It was definitely tough waiting to be germ-free to get started on my baking. I couldn't wait to put on some comfy sweats, play Christmas music and spend solo time in my kitchen. 

Those who have followed my Christmas baking posts in earlier years will recognize the base recipes for these cookies. It's fun to start with something tried-and-true, but mix up some ingredients to take them in a new flavour direction. My standby cream cheese shortbread has seen both lemon and lime versions. This year I completed a citrus trifecta!


In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of orange juice to a boil over high high. Then lower the heat slightly and continue boiling until reduced to 1/4 cup.

In a stand mixer, cream together 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter and 3 oz softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup of icing sugar and beat hard. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract, the reduced orange juice, and the zest of one orange. Gradually add 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 20 mins. 

Taking care to handle the dough as little as possible, roll the dough into 1 inch balls, and place on a greased baking sheet. Make an indentation in the dough balls with a fork dipped in icing sugar. Bake at 300F for 25 minutes, or until just starting to colour underneath. 

These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. The cookies can also be frozen for up to two months.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Pumpkin quickbread

Yes, I am that white girl PSL (pumpkin spice latte) stereotype. Something about this time of year makes me yearn for anything spiced pumpkin. In reality, that usually means the occasional take-out latte or a couple of slices of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and not much more. A year ago, I thought I'd light a fire under my feet by buying... a can of pumpkin pie filling. In reality, it sat in my kitchen cupboard gathering dust for a year. This year I finally got around to used it in a recipe for quick bread I found on pinterest. It was ridiculously easy, didn't take long at all and turned out beautifully moist and tasty.

The recipe specifically calls for a can of pureed pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, instructions I ignored out of necessity. I can't speak to the original version, but I thought it tasted great with the pie version. I'd omitted the spices, thinking there were probably enough in the pie filling, but I think I could have used them anyways. 

Next time I'd like to try some variations on the original: maybe substituting some of the oil for applesauce, and using this bread to make super-decadent French toast, topped with sautéed apples, plus maple syrup or pumpkin pie flavoured whipped cream.


In a stand mixer, blend 2 cups of sugar and one cup of canola oil. Then add 4 eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Add a 16 oz can of pumpkin pie pilling and 3/4 cup water.

In a mixing bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp all-spice, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt. Pour into two greased pan loaves and bake at 350F for an hour.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Cornmeal-crusted cod with beurre blanc and slow-cooked sweet peppers

One Friday night after a very long week at work I wanted to treat myself to a sinfully rich meal. I decided to make beurre blanc, a classic French butter-based sauce made from a reduction of dry white wine, vinegar and shallots, using Cordon Bleu's official recipe. I'd read about cornmeal-crusted pan-fried fish earlier in the week, so I substituted that for my usual flour coating. I topped the fish with leftover slow-cooked sweet peppers for colour and flavour. It was a terrific way to kick off the weekend.


To make the fish:

Pat dry 2 fillets of cod and dredge them in cornmeal before pan-frying in olive oil over medium-high heat (about 4-5 minutes per side). 

To make the sautéed sweet peppers:

Click here for the recipe.

To make the sauce:

Combine 1/4 cup dry white wine, 2T white wine vinegar and 1 finely diced shallot in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce until about 2T of liquid remains. While the liquid is reducing, cut 1 cup of cold butter into small cubes. 

Once the liquid is reduced, add the butter cubes in batches, whisking vigorously. Season to taste. Strain out the shallots using a fine-mesh sieve (optional). 

To serve: 

Spoon the beurre blanc onto the plate, then add the fish. Top with a drizzle of lemon juice, a spoonful of the sweet peppers and a sprinkle of minced chives.